As with so many things, the ideas that really ‘work’ on the Internet are often the most simple. In fact, they are often the ideas that most people would just discard as being too ridiculous to even try (this doesn’t just apply to the Internet of course – many great inventors/entrepreneurs have been laughed at in the past only to have the last laugh themselves.
Anyway, I have been following the story of one such idea over the past couple of months and although I am sure many of you will already be familiar with it, I wanted to share some thoughts with you.
The site in question is called the Million Dollar Home Page. This site was the brainchild of an English guy by the name of Alex Tew. Alex is 21 and back in August was about to start university. Being only too aware of the fact that many students end up finishing their education with huge debts to repay, he decided to try and generate sufficient funds to cover his expenses whilst studying using the power of the Internet.
The basic concept of the Million Dollar Home Page is that website owners can buy advertising space on the home page of the site at a cost of $1 per pixel. The smallest advertising block you can purchase is 10×10 pixels, hence a cost of $100. There are a million pixels available for purchase, thus if Alex succeeds in selling them all, he will have raised a cool $1million!
On the face of it, this is a crazy idea – why would anyone want to pay to put a tiny graphic on a page of thousands of other tiny graphics on the off-chance that someone might click on it? If you had asked me 3 months ago (ie. prior to the site being launched) if I thought it was worth doing, I would have said ‘no’ (as indeed, I think most people would have done). How wrong I was…
Alex launched the site at the end of August and right away started to try and generate press interest. This approach worked superbly and he has had International press coverage over the past couple of months which has helped to spread the word about his site in the viral manner that is only possible via the Internet. Result? At the time of writing this article, Alex had sold over half a million pixels – yup, that means he has generated over $500,000 in income in just 2 months! At this rate he will achieve his target of selling a million pixels by the end of the year and even if he doesn’t sell another pixel, he has still done superbly well.
So what can we learn from this?
Well the first thing is that even the wackiest ideas can work and it doesn’t matter how simple a theory may be, it is worth giving it a shot. You don’t get much simpler than the idea for the Million Dollar Home Page – in effect, this could have been a one-page site. As it is, Alex has added other pages such as a blog and press release info which helps to make the site even more appealing as people like to read stories such as this as they happen.
Clearly you don’t need a 1000 page website with lots of complicated programming running in the background to earn half a million dollars – one page will do it!
The second thing to note is that the way in which the Internet can spread the word about a website is hugely powerful. Admittedly much of the PR that Alex obtained was via television/radio and newspaper articles/features but an enormous amount of the traffic and customers that he has received will have been via people emailing his link to their friends and by hearing about the site from articles such as this one. Remember, all of this ‘advertising’ is completely free and it doesn’t get better than that.
Of course it didn’t take long for the copycats to show up and there are now several hundred similar websites online – many of them haven’t even bothered to change the style or wording from the original site and have just copied and pasted Alex’s work. How lazy can you get? It is a fact that if you have a good idea that makes money on the Internet, sooner or later someone will copy it. I know this from my own experience! What all of these copycats miss is why an idea such as this works – it is a one-off and the only person that is going to make any serious money from it is the guy who was first to the table, ie. Alex. You see this so often both on and offline – how many people are still trying to set up online auction sites that are never going to work because eBay is already too far ahead of the game?
I have even seen several people selling scripts that automate the admin functions of a ‘pixels for sale’ page so that you can set up your own pixel site without having to manually add graphics/links etc! At least this shows a little imagination and doesn’t rip off the original idea completely.
In summary, Alex has to be commended for coming up with a brilliantly simple idea and for actually seeing it through. The advertisers will almost certainly be seeing increased traffic since the very nature of the site encourages visitors to click on a couple of graphics ‘just to see’. Of course, this traffic won’t be targeted and for the most part therefore, will be pretty poor quality but as they say, there is no such thing as bad traffic.
The Million Dollar Home Page is a perfect example of how a basic idea can be let loose online and allowed to generate a small fortune from nothing in a very short space of time. The best ideas are yet to come and to repeat a quote that I used a few months ago, ‘Most of the people that will become Internet millionaires don’t even have a website yet…’
Three months ago Alex fell into that category, today he has a website and I willing to bet that in a few months time he will also have the $1m to go with it. Will it be your turn next?