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The Almighty Buck The Internet

Cash Pours in for Student with $1 Million Web Idea 527

Quantum Logic writes "Alex Tew, a 21-year-old student from a small town in England, earned a cool million dollars in four months on the Internet. Selling porn? Dealing prescription drugs? Nope. All he sells are pixels. The idea: turn his home page into a billboard made up of a million dots, and sell them for a dollar a dot to anyone who wants to put up their logo. A 10 by 10 dot square, roughly the size of a letter of type, costs $100. He sold a few to his brothers and some friends, and when he had made $1,000, he issued a press release. That was picked up by the news media, spread around the Internet, and soon advertisers for everything from dating sites to casinos to real estate agents to The Times of London were putting up real cash for pixels, with links to their own sites."
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Cash Pours in for Student with $1 Million Web Idea

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  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:01AM (#14362973) Homepage
    You can be the smartest guy on the block with many awesome ideas, but it seems to repeatedly be the simplest/dumbest ones which get you rich quick.
  • Cool idea .... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:04AM (#14362985)
    ... to just sell nothing, basically. Life in the 21st century.
  • by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:19AM (#14363041) Journal
    This reminds me of the guy who invented the pet rock. I mean, he got rich, but what a bunch of morons that *bought* a freakin rock! Although the look of the page is cool, I don't see this working for many more people.
  • by drunkgoat ( 927967 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:26AM (#14363070)
    Am I the only one who thinks this site has been blown way out of proportion? Sure the creator promises that your ad will be in place until 2010, but honestly, who is going to view that page more than once ? Especially since in the FAQ it states that you are not allowed to modify your images once they have been posted. This page is going to be stagnet for the next 5 years and the visitor numbers will drop substantialy after the first few months.
  • Forethought? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KRYnosemg33 ( 709857 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:27AM (#14363077)
    Call me a cynic, but I wonder... how successful or truthful was Alex's sale of $911k in advertising *before* national press attention (msnbc /. ap etc)?

    Clearly anyone who bought advertising space is cashing in right now, but I wonder if this guy is saying hehas sold $911K so that he can REALLY sell the last 88,200$ in space and actually make money.

    whatever the answer -- creative and cunning...

    It looks like was registered 2weeks after .... DAMN :/ there goes my 1 BILLLLLLLLION dollars
  • Re:Forethought? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by michaeltoe ( 651785 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:40AM (#14363118) Journal
    I agree, something about the page doesn't seem right. A lot of those "ads" look like they were put together by a graphic artist, and the same artist, throughout most of the design. It's just too damn balanced for me to believe. And really, "I'm rich, your not" just seems a bit _too_ obvious, misspelling and all.

    But yet, everyone seems to believe it. I don't know what to criticize people for.

  • by aprilsound ( 412645 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:42AM (#14363121) Homepage
    Job offers have been coming in from Internet companies impressed by a young man who managed to figure out an original way to make money online.
    This is the trouble with business. This kid isn't a genius, after all:
    ...I've only just passed my driving test...
    This is just a flash in the pan, he'll get some publicity, sell some ad space, and then what?

    Yes, he made a significant amount of money in a short time, which seems to be the model the new economy [] is adopting, but it's not sustainable business. In 2 months, who is going to care about a site full of ads with no content?

    The kid had a good idea, and got lucky, but that doesn't make him anything special, and given the nature of the money (i.e. accrued with very little effort on his part), I don't think he gained any experience that will make him an asset to any of these companies offering him a job. This is winning the lottery, not entrepreneurial success (not to say there isn't a lot of luck in entrepreneurship).

    This is not news, it's barely human interest, and its not anything anyone will care about even next week (except the people seeing the dupe for the first time).

    Nothing to see here, please move along.

  • Traffic analysis (Score:4, Insightful)

    by complete loony ( 663508 ) <> on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:46AM (#14363137)
    I read his blog earlier today before it hit slashdot, he writes a fair amount about traffic hits, I wonder if /. will rate a mention...
    C'mon people, visit his page at least once []. Dammit there should have been a link in the summary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:54AM (#14363163)
    well I think you're missing the point of what they see in him

    and quite the opposite argument can be made, look at nobel laureates, how many of them did any significant work after the work that won them the prize, some do, but in proportion to the expectations you have?

    coming up with one good idea unfortunately isn't a sure fire predictor of future good ideas

    rather what they see in him I think is that he has what it takes to transform an idea into real world action

    there's a lot more people out there with grandiose "good" ideas than there are people with the skills to take one of them and turn it into real world profit

    griping that there's nothing special about this kid just makes you look petty and jealous
  • Re:I call hoax (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jdbartlett ( 941012 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @03:08AM (#14363218)
    I think I'll wait for Reuters to verify your claim.
  • by Drakonite ( 523948 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @03:36AM (#14363295) Homepage
    This kid isn't a genius, after all:

    ...I've only just passed my driving test...

    This may surprise you, but not everyone in the world has a driver's license at age 16. Hell, in a lot of countries the minimum age is 17, 18, or even higher. And believe it or not, in large portions of the world a substantial (majority?) of people don't have a driver's license and depend on public transit systems like rails, subways, and busses. It's a shame that most US citizens can't comprehend the benefits to society of having a good solid public transit system over a crappy (or non existant) public transist with everyone having their own vehicle and thus treat public transit like a disease they want nothing to do with; some even going as far as to redicule anyone who would even think of using public transit. You'd think after 20 or 30 minutes of rush hour traffic just about anyone would be converted..

    Maybe that wasn't his reason... maybe he just didn't need a car and thus didn't care, maybe he couldn't afford one, or maybe he is a horrible driver. Doesn't really matter, because I don't care about the original topic anymore.. My point still stands in general.

  • Re:Holy old news. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @03:43AM (#14363306) Homepage
    Just to show how ridiculously old this is, there are people selling friggin scripts that will automate the whole process of creating this kind of page. In fact, there are so many clones out there that there are already directories of them. The kid got lucky, but anybody else hoping to cash in will not be so lucky. You see, this is a one time fee that people pay, and they pay for the traffic that is generated by the press. You only get the press if you're the guy who started this. You won't get it if you're just a clone.

  • Re:I call hoax (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @03:59AM (#14363350) Homepage
    Agreed. The going rate for banner ad impressions is about $100 per million impressions, and that's for a 486*60 pixel ad with decent placement. This guy would charge $30,000 for a standard sized banner. So he'd have to get 300 million hits to be competitive. No way.

    And his is an ad-cluttered site. You probably have to derate the price by a factor of 5 or so. At which point you've reached the English-speaking population of the planet as the breakeven point.

  • by Barny ( 103770 ) <> on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:00AM (#14363352) Journal
    Now to simply block that at my routers hosts file... ahhh

    Anyone else see this as being a "topsite" that doesn't fairly rank the sites, just sells out to the highest bidder?

    Imagine if google sold the top 10 slots for each of the top 1,000,000 words searched, i would think they would get more than $1bil, but then, no one would go there anymore :)
  • by mdfst13 ( 664665 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:11AM (#14363377)
    "It's a shame that most US citizens can't comprehend the benefits to society of having a good solid public transit system"

    In most of the US, a public transportation system would be more expensive than cars. Buses are great and all, but if they always run less than a quarter full, they're actually less efficient than cars (because they are so much bigger). Further, there are only six cities in the US with the population density to support light rail (in the rest, buses would actually be more efficient).

    The only way public transit would work in the US would be if people stopped moving out of cities and started moving back. Good public transit requires that kind of clumpiness. The subway systems in New York, Boston, and DC are incredible. However, they simply wouldn't work in other cities. Who wants to wait an hour for a train? Heck, I don't like waiting fifteen minutes for a bus!
  • by jdigriz ( 676802 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:17AM (#14363399)
    >A year from now, this site wont exist, but the kid is set for life. Why? He didn't demonstrate a knack for business or marketing or anything like that, much less a unique talent.

    Oh, I seriously disagree. This guy figured out a way to sell something that there's an infinite supply of, pixels, for lots of money, *and* to get people talking about him doing it. If that's not a knack for marketing, I don't know what is. Marketing is demand creation, pure and simple.

    Did he create something of actual value? No, of course not. Did he create the perception of value? Definitely, for people who purchased his "wares". And creating the perception of value is the most valuable thing of all in today's "service economy".
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:19AM (#14363404) Journal
    The kid got people to throw money at him with an idea NOBODY else thought of and all you can do is whine about how he is not a genius, can barely drive and basically doesn't deserve it because it was "easy" money. What a fucking wet blanket, in ten years you will probably be working for him.
  • by dynamo52 ( 890601 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:23AM (#14363412)
    ...there's a sucker born every minute. Or in this case, at least 10,000 in 4 months.

    But can you call them suckers? People are actually clicking through the ads. Seems like they are getting better than they paid for.

  • Noone gets it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stan Vassilev ( 939229 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:33AM (#14363435)
    People still don't get it. There's like 20 ads on his own page linking to copycat sites selling or renting pixels... This is retarded.

    Pixels have no value, cloning his site a million times has no value. It's the original idea that matters, and he thought of it first and implemented it first.

    The rest is internet history.
  • Pagerank 7/10 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lordsilence ( 682367 ) * on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:40AM (#14363449) Homepage
    The site has a pagerank 7/10 which is actually pretty good in terms of internet publicity.
    Getting your own site linked on a 7/10 site will do wonders for your own Pagerank.

    Thus those pixels may be worth more than they seem.

    The question is how google will treat that amount of links, if it will accept them in the PR calculations.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:09AM (#14363517)
    agreed - in SF the population density puts about 3/4 of a million people in a space smaller than Boulder Colorado, and is nicely served by mass-transit better than cars. Pheonix Arizona on the other hand (where I just moved back from) is so spread out, the cost of SF style transportation would be staggering, and in the US there's tons of communties that are low-population but very spread out.

    Europe had the luxury of a couple of dozen centuries to bulk up the populations over small areas. They have little idea how large the US really is. I'm always amused at their reactions when I encounter new comers who have driven from NY to California, taken Amtrak or Greyhound.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:33AM (#14363566) Journal
    There was a program, if you could call it that, that aired late at night and was just an endless stream of commercials. It was ages ago but I think it was a way to distribute new ads to those who have to watch them for some reason. Like those late night education shows that you are supposed to record if intrested and then watch later during more normal hours. The BBC still has these.

    This is a bit like that. Most "real" ads are carefully placed in an enviroment/surrounding were you already would be looking and hopefully attract your attention. So for instance the huge blank space between the slashdot dupe and the comments, eh I mean the nice blinking ad that I did not filter out because I do not steal from cowboyneal is placed there because hopefully as you scroll down you will see the ad and become intrested.

    This guys adsite however has no content apart from the ads. So why should people visit it apart from pure curiousity. Surely this would not result in any hits?

    TV regulators at least do not seem to think so. The programs that show the funniest ads are usually not regulated as a half hour advertisement blok would be. The BBC and most european channels could not show them if anyone thought that a commercial shown during such a program would result in extra sales.

    I can understand that people might want to pay X amuunt of money to have their face plasterd on times square or something, but to pay money to get your image on a guys homepage with no other content? I truly just don't get it. Either all the "advertisers" see it as a joke OR advertisers are stupid OR and this is worse. This guys site actually works. People really will visit a site with nothing but ads and generate sales.

    This could be bad. If this continues slashvertisements will soon be the only content. TV channels will be nothing but ads with the occasional break for the station logo. And it will work. ARGH!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:35AM (#14363570)
    Are you that stupid? Or are you just intentionally lying?

    We don't subsidize cars, we tax the living S*** out of them!! Cars put money in the government's pocket. Gas would be between $1-$1.50 per gallon if the government didn't tax it!! Federal taxes alone are 21% of the cost of gas. Now add state and local taxes to that. And that is just end user taxes. Nothing about the taxes and regulations on the businesses that make, transport, or sell gas.
    Then we have car license fees, title fees, driver fees, insurance fees, toll roads. The cost of driving is well passed on to the consumer.

    Building roads is a primary government function. Has been since Sumer. Police, Military, Roads, and now Education (which you apparently missed) are the 4 primary functions of government.

    Do you even know what a subsidy is? Look junior, if you are going to use big words you may want to look them up in the dictionary.

    Yeah, yeah, my comments are a bit aggressive, but they are not flamebait or a troll (although modding down political opinion seems Salshdot's pastime) I just don't see why I should tolerate your intolerable bullshit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:50AM (#14363595)
    I bet he hasn't made a million dollars on this at all, but he plans to, by convincing you that this is a done deal, and "a piece of internet history". Piece of crock marketing homework is more like it.
  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @06:09AM (#14363631)
    Almost every post is about "why didn't I think about it first", either directly or indirectly. So all that is left from 5000 years of human history is the desire to ...get rich? if the /. crowd, that is supposed to be geeks and interested in a varied set of interests primarily around science, reacts in that way in the mention of 1 million dollars, then our sociery is really doomed. In a few years, nobody will be left to care about values, about science, about humanity, and those that will do so will be in for the money. It is a very sad day to read Slashdot...
  • by Imsdal ( 930595 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @06:22AM (#14363658)
    This is not even remotely true, but a very common misconception.

    The gambling industry creates entertainment. Creating entertainment is creating value to those who appreciate that particular form of entertainment. As with all forms of entertainment, it may be of a kind that you do not particularily enjoy. Fortunately, you are free to abstain from participating in it if you don't like it. Great, huh!

    What is your take on the movie industry? Don't they create anything of value either? Artists? Writers of fiction?

    Lawyers add value by helping make sure that everyone follows agreements on how to behave in society. Not all lawyers create value while doing so, for different reasons. In fact, one may argue that the current situation in the US is such that most lawyers don't create value to anyone except themselves. But blanket statements about slicing pies instead of baking them are confused and incorrect.

  • by Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @06:42AM (#14363700) Journal
    Further, there are only six cities in the US with the population density to support light rail (in the rest, buses would actually be more efficient).

    In my experience (Vancouver BC) building mass transit creates demand for high density housing. We built our first rapid transit line in 1986, and ten years later you could see residential towers around most of the stations - wherever the municipal governments allowed it. In 2001 we opened a second line and the towers are there already. These are 20-30 story residential towers, in groups of 3-10 around most stations, where previously there were just some old houses. The towers being built now have integrated commercial development, ie: a good grocery store and basic services are less than a 5 minute walk from your apartment. Provided there is demand for real-estate, why not build this way ? People don't want to drive an hour or more to work, and then drive again to the grocery store, and again to the mall, etc. You can waste your entire life sitting in traffic. Rapid transit has network effects. The system becomes more valuable as you build it, and if cities aren't building it now because their density is low then they are completely backwards.
  • by ctid ( 449118 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @06:55AM (#14363730) Homepage
    What he did was:

    1. Think up the idea.
    2. Make it happen.
    3. Generate enough success to sell 1000 pixels.
    4. (Very important) Attract the attention of the national media.
    5. (Very important) He was the first person to make a success of this idea.

    In short, I don't understand what you don't understand.
  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @07:09AM (#14363765) Journal
    in ten years he will have spent all his million dollars rying to get his internet ad firm off the ground and realize after it's gone that his idea was just randomly lucky, like the first person to sell a ghost in a jar on ebay or the first hundred or so people to sign up for a free ipod/plasma tv/ mac mini
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @07:42AM (#14363839)
    I also have a website as and theres no way im going to pay for a pixel.

    the site is a link farm and what chance do you have of getting your ad clicked out of the 1 million pixels ?

    without the media the guy wouldnt have gotten anywhere.

  • by wheany ( 460585 ) <> on Friday December 30, 2005 @08:37AM (#14363948) Homepage Journal
    Naaaah... Really?
  • by Deanalator ( 806515 ) <> on Friday December 30, 2005 @09:19AM (#14364070) Homepage
    or.. maybe its the simple/dumb ones that manage to get the media attention? Plenty of people get rich every day with nothing more than good old fashioned greed and manipulation.
  • by Phantom Zmoove ( 893297 ) on Friday December 30, 2005 @09:20AM (#14364071)
    Out of all the bad things I've done in my life, driving to work never really occurred to me as one of them.
  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Friday December 30, 2005 @12:25PM (#14365105)
    He was using the word "subsidy" in the same way that polititians use the words "spending cut". (You know... only an 8% increase when you expected a 12% increase is a 33% cut). He's got this big nebulous number that nobody can actually calculate drilled into his head by European governments and environmental groups that is supposedly the cost of cars environmental impact. Conveniently left out of the equation are the economic benefits, so when people like the parent poster do their voodoo math, the cost on society of driving is higher than the taxes regardless of how conservative number they pull out of their asses. They use that reasoning to justify their belief that taxes should be used to discourage driving. In reality, the cost of discouraging personal transportation in an effective way is probably signifigantly higher than the costs of dealing with it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:29PM (#14365938)
    No, some people just don't like living in densely packed cities. It has nothing to do with public transportation.

    Private parties in a lush yard
    Space for your children to play safely
    Space for a barbecue pit
    Not having to see your neighbors
    Not having to hear your neighbors fucking, fighting, smashing things, or anything else
    Not having your neighbors hear about your personal life
    Being able to have a garden
    Having clean drinking water that hasn't been chlorinated to ass
    Lower crime rates
    Aesthetics ...

    Cities are disgusting, obnoxious, loud, dirty shitholes. And some people just go there to work and shop, and want to leave when they're done to a nice, pleasant environment that sucks for working and shopping but is relaxing, clean, and pretty.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @03:03PM (#14366168)
    Fads create boring value. They don't revolutionize anything. They don't create anything that lasts. There's no evidence that his site has created more of this limited value than a weekend's worth of banner ads on Slashdot. With the visual noise of the page if anyone clicks on anything it's likely to be at random for novelty. I found it visually interesting, but I can't recall a single advertisement and I couldn't even discern most of the advertisements because they were of much too low-resolution. In fact the only thing I thought of when I was looking at it was, "If he had created a 'Where is Waldo?' game with this, he would have created more ROI for his advertisers." Then I closed the page and I'll never look at it ever again.

    The point is that creating that fad (Was it one? I had never even heard of it before, despite its age. It looks like a warez website without the warez, really.) and profiting from it isn't respectable to the audience. Few people respect get-rich-quick schemes. And without any data about the ROI for the advertisers, it's easy to assume that few if any advertisers received one. In which case he managed to convince a bunch of people to waste their money on ineffective advertising. Which is probably the majority of advertising anyway, but the tactic is up there with companies that sell schemes on TV to people that wish to WORK FROM HOME FOR $8K A MONTH.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall