Saturday, February 18, 2006

Back on the Radar...brrreeeport?

There's been a lot of talk recently about this brrreeeport thing...

Traffic has been slow to NFK ever since the pixels fad died down but let's see if this does anything to bring more people to the blog!

-Steve-

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

WSJ

We got a nice mention in the Wall Street Journal today. Alex Tew is auctioning off the last 1000 pixels of the Million Dollar Homepage and the author mentioned some of the other pixel sites. If you would like to support the cause, please donate as little as $5 to help.

-Steve-
Bidders Vie to Purchase
Last Web-Screen Sections;
Copycat Sites Now Abound
January 10, 2006; Page B8

In late November, this column talked about Alex Tew, a 21-year-old British man who, in a quest to fund his university studies, had arrived at the seemingly outlandish idea of creating a Web site and selling advertising in the form of "pixels" -- the simplest graphical denominator of a computer screen -- for a buck each. His goal: one million dollars.

What made the story noteworthy then was that Mr. Tew had already passed the halfway mark despite having no target audience or even the slightest bit of brand recognition. As of tomorrow, Mr. Tew could not only reach his million-dollar goal, he could surpass it by auctioning off the last 1,000 pixels for www.milliondollarhomepage.com on eBay. Further, Mr. Tew's business model has inspired hundreds, perhaps thousands, of copycat sites angling to find a new twist on pixel sales for whatever their needs may be.

[Alex Tew]
Alex Tew, creator of milliondollarhomepage.com, and his father, Malcolm Tew, pictured the weekend before Alex's last pixels are auctioned on eBay.


As an entrepreneurial venture, Mr. Tew's stands out given his young age, global influence and quick return on an estimated $40,000 investment to host and publicize the site. On Aug. 26, Mr. Tew launched his home page and divided the screen into 10,000 small squares of 100 pixels each. He sold pixels for $1 each, with a minimum order of 100 pixels and promised to keep the page alive for at least five years. In each space, buyers could put a graphical ad of their choosing, linking it to their own site. Today the home page resembles a cluttered collage of ads in various shapes and colors.

Internet Celebrity

Meantime, Mr. Tew himself has taken on celebrity status in the Internet community. World-wide solicitations have swamped his email in-box; he says there are currently 10,000-plus unanswered messages soliciting him for everything from money and business advice to job positions. Getty Images, which provides film and photo images to media outlets and others, just conducted a portrait session with Mr. Tew and his parents in Cricklade, England.

In fact, all the attention has persuaded Mr. Tew to postpone his university studies -- an ironic turn of events given that school was the original impetus for his project.

"I never expected the site to reach the level of success it has done," he writes in an email. "But I can't see how I can realistically continue my studies in the immediate future -- due to the sheer scale of interest in my site, and all the new opportunities that have presented themselves as a result. There just isn't time now." He says he will return to school in September.

By the end of 2005, Mr. Tew had sold 999,000 pixels and demand outstripped supply for the last thousand. On Dec. 30, the page had one million unique visitors and Mr. Tew's server almost died, he says, forcing him to temporarily suspend order taking. Giddy prospective buyers pushed him to open a second page, but Mr. Tew had pledged to close the page when his goal of one million dollars was reached in order to protect its originality.

Final Auction

So over the New Year, Mr. Tew decided to do what any calculating businessman might: He put the last 1,000 pixels up for sale on eBay. The auction ends tomorrow at 1:42 p.m. EST; as of 6 p.m. last night, the highest offer from a pool of bidders handpicked by Mr. Tew was $160,109.09. He expects to net about $650,000 to $700,000 after costs, taxes and a donation he plans to give to The Prince's Trust, a U.K. charity for youth that once helped him.

Mr. Tew's efforts benefited from newness, shrewd marketing and the Internet's lightning-speed word of mouth. After first persuading his friends and family to buy pixels to make the page seem legitimate, he then began touting his site, and himself, to bloggers, who directed traffic Mr. Tew's way. The media in Britain picked up on his venture, fueling more visitors.

In mid-September, Mr. Tew's Web site landed on the "Movers & Shakers" feature of Alexa.com, which ranks the world's Web sites by the number of people who visit them. Marketing executives often troll Alexa.com, which is owned by Amazon.com, to check out what's hot and what's not, and at one point Mr. Tew's site reached Alexa's No. 2 spot. That brought in a new wave of advertisers. In October, a U.S. publicist named Imal Wagner contacted him about penning his life story; he declined but hired her to help him with a U.S. media tour.

Pixel Mania

The attention inspired rival sites. One attractive 22-year-old Siberian emergency worker has posted her own black-and-white photo on a home page; as people buy pixels on www.presentmecolor.com the image metamorphoses to color. At www.boxofstars.com two filmmakers are selling digital "stars" -- orbs of light of various hues and size that bounce about the home page and link to other sites -- to raise $50,000 and finance their picture. In a marriage of online and outdoor advertising, www.stickermyhummer.com encourages buyers to purchase ads on an online picture of the body of a Hummer H2; when that's filled the site's owner, a California State University student promises he'll buy a real one and wrap it in a graphical composite of the ads. There are charity sites, sites devoted to erotica, and plain-vanilla financial Web sites all using pixels to raise funds. An Indiana University student has even launched a parody site called www.trumpingalex.com, complete with a fake image of Mr. Tew sporting Donald Trump-esque hair.

While none of these seem to have replicated Mr. Tew's success, and it's unclear if they ever will, the sheer volume of attempts and creative juice behind them paints an interesting picture of collective online entrepreneurship around the globe. And at the very least, it suggests there will be an eventual shakeout of what works, and what doesn't. For instance, one site, www.worldofpersia.com, targets a single ethnic group and purports to have sold 1,900 pixels in two days. Two Carnegie Mellon students started www.nickelsforkatrina.org to raise money for hurricane victims.

Meantime, people are tweaking their pages' graphical elements to stand out: A Frenchman launched www.monpremiermillion.com where people place ads on a map of his homeland and www.yournameonthemoon.com solicits people to post missives on a lunar image.

Currently, Mr. Tew is holed up at home in Cricklade with his mom and dad, monitoring his auction on a 17-inch Hewlett-Packard laptop from his parents' living room and sleeping from 5 a.m. till 9 a.m. to keep up with U.S. time zones. His folks screen his calls -- their son's numbers got posted on the Internet -- and siblings helped sort through the last round of orders. Mr. Tew says he paid them.

Says his 58-year-old dad, Malcolm Tew: "Alexander has always had lots and lots of ideas, some good and some not so good. This is certainly the most, ah, fruitful."

Write to Gwendolyn Bounds at wendy.bounds@wsj.com

Friday, November 25, 2005

in the paper today

We got written up today in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05329/611718.stm

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

it's been a while...

Sorry for the sparse posting. The last couple weeks at school have been pretty busy and we haven't had much time to work on the site. Our official count is up to $2,555 and we're trying to drive some more traffic in the coming weeks.

The group I went to Mississippi with is following up with the people we helped out and we will be presenting a report on our trip to the university. I will have an update on this in a week or so.

There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today about the pixels phenomenon. Unfortunately, they didn't mention us but it sheds some light on the wave of interest around such an arbitrary thing.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB113261806930503580.html?mod=technology_main_promo_right

Pipe Dream
How Selling Pixels May Yield a Million Bucks
November 22, 2005; Page B1

It was just a few months ago that 21-year-old Alex Tew of Great Britain was stumped about how to pay for college. He'd filled a notebook with ideas before jotting down this simple, if rather audacious, query to himself: How Can I Become a Millionaire?

In the annals of entrepreneurship, what followed is an instructional tale of how a brainstorm, coupled with the Internet's powerful word-of-mouth culture, can set a trend in motion with lightning speed. Mr. Tew says his strategy was to find an idea simple to understand and cheap to set up, with a catchy name that would garner attention online, where he gained experience from having free-lanced as a Web designer for a few years.

Ultimately, his solution amounted to making money via Internet advertising -- but with a twist. Instead of selling banner ads, text links or splashy videolike ads that fill a screen, Mr. Tew opted to hawk the simplest graphical denominator of a computer screen: the pixel. A pixel is a tiny dot of light and color, and each screen has tens of thousands of them.

Mr. Tew created a home page, www.milliondollarhomepage.com, where he divided the screen into 10,000 small squares of 100 pixels each. His plan: to sell the pixels for $1 a piece, with a minimum order of 100 pixels. In each space, buyers could put a graphical ad of their choosing that links to their own site when clicked on. The end result is a cluttered collage of ads in various shapes and colors all amassed on a single digital billboard. (Mr. Tew doesn't charge his advertisers anything when a visitor clicks on the ads.)

Mr. Tew pledged to keep the site up for at least five years and to close the page when his goal of one million dollars was reached. "I had to think big," he says.

The notion seemed absurd. Who would want to advertise on an unknown site that had no target audience, no track record of attracting visitors or even the slightest brand recognition?

But as with many gimmicks, its newness gave it legs, as did Mr. Tew's shrewd marketing. He first roped his friends and family into buying pixels and placing ads to make the page seem legitimate. He then began touting his site, and himself, to bloggers, who wrote about his crazy idea and linked to the site, which directed traffic his way. The media in Britain picked up on his efforts, fueling more visitors.

Within two weeks of the site's Aug. 26 launch Mr. Tew says he sold $40,000 in ads. More important, the traffic numbers started gaining attention among the U.S. Internet community.

Since its launch, the site has received a total of about 1.5 million unique visitors. In mid-September, it landed on the "Movers & Shakers" feature of Alexa.com, which ranks the world's Web sites by the number of people who visit them. Marketing executives often troll Alexa.com, which is owned by Amazon.com, to check out what's hot and what's not, and at one point Mr. Tew's site reached Alexa's No. 2 spot.

Currently, the site gets 600,000 to 700,000 unique visitors a month. As of yesterday evening, Mr. Tew said he was $623,800 toward his goal, more than enough to pay for college and earmark some cash for his next entrepreneurial venture, he says. (He keeps a running tally of his sales on the Web site, and though the figure can't be independently verified, screenshots emailed by Mr. Tew of his PayPal and other checkout accounts appear to support his claim.)

While there's also no way of knowing for sure whether Mr. Tew is the first entrepreneur to sell pixels, the idea was new enough that it felt that way to onlookers.

"I was like, 'What's this?' " says Daniel Khesin, vice president of marketing at DS Laboratories Inc., a skin-care company in Lake Success, N.Y. After examining Mr. Tew's site, he says: "There was nothing inherently special about the page, but it was very obvious to us that at the very least, buying some pixels would be a good idea for the sheer number of visitors he was getting."

DS Laboratories purchased 800 pixels. Almost overnight, he says, traffic surged at the company's Web site by twentyfold, and all of the increase came from milliondollarhomepage.com. More impressive, he says, sales by Internet companies that DS Laboratories' site links to jumped almost 50% within a week of the ad going up.

"Our skepticism was that this is untargeted traffic," Mr. Khesin says. "But this advertising has definitely paid for itself many times forward. And unlike banner advertising where it goes away, people will always know where to find it to go back and purchase more products."

Similarly, Chris Magras, president Evisions Marketing Inc. in Tempe, Ariz., which helps Web sites get higher rankings on search services, also noted milliondollarhomepage.com's movement on Alexa.com. "Some people would say it's a bad idea, some would say it's a good one. All I know is that it was generating interest," Mr. Magras says.

Evisions bought 6,400 pixels and its ad went up on a Friday. The following Monday morning, Evisions was getting 2,000 more unique visitors to its home page, all linked directly from milliondollarhomepage.com. The number of leads, or visitors filling out personal information on the Evisions site, jumped to 300 a day from 100.

"It was quality traffic," Mr. Magras says. "It was definitely the biggest payoff for a one-stop ad buy we've ever had." He adds that the company is still getting 800 to 1,000 new visitors daily from Mr. Tew's site.

Copycats popped up almost immediately; now there are hundreds of Web sites selling pixels, some of them directly crediting Mr. Tew -- and even linking to his site. Some advertisers have put out press releases touting their alliances with Mr. Tew's site, further helping spike his traffic.

The risk, of course, is that as the original pixel concept gets mimicked, it will suffer from brand dilution and become a less compelling a business model. What's more, as milliondollarhomepage.com has filled up, it's become harder for advertisers to stand out amid a busy screen with messages ranging from "CasinoScams" and "Free Ringtones" to "Jesus" and "Hypnosis"; the smallest ad spaces, at 100-pixels square, are nearly indecipherable at this point.

Whether Mr. Tew reaches a million dollars remains to be seen. He readily notes that he'd never do another site like the original. Now, he says, "the copycats are all competing with each other."

One is Moneypants.com, a personal finance Web site geared toward women that says it has 600 members and has collected $4,500 over the last few weeks from its own pixel "Dream Page" -- a decent chunk of change for a nascent enterprise.

"It's very compelling," says MoneyPants Chief Executive Komal Bhojwani. "We don't have to end up going the investor route, which might require us to make changes to the business that we don't want to make. And we didn't have to get into debt by borrowing from a bank. We are generating revenue and not expenses."

One advertiser, Cherryl Weaver, says she's seen a 13% jump in traffic to her real estate Web site, www.hotlaneighborhoods.com, from the 1,500 MoneyPants.com pixels she bought. "As long as it's a strategic alliance, it makes sense," Ms. Weaver says, alluding to the affinity between a personal-finance site and real estate. "Would I team up with McDonald's if they did a dream page? No."

Meantime, James Thomson, a Web designer in Branson, Mo., says he's wiped out $30,000 in personal debt accumulated after the dot-come bust with his site, www.millionpennyhomepage.com, by selling pixels by the penny, instead of the dollar. Yesterday, he had only $974 left to go before reaching his goal of $10,000.

And Christian Abad, president of Accessible Computing Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., is trying to lure new clients to his pixel page, called www.pixelads4all.com, by giving them a 50% discount off their pixel purchases. Sales have been slow, but he remains optimistic about the overall concept and has even purchased 11 domain names in anticipation of a future in pixel advertising. Among them: pixelads4shopping.com and pixelads4porn.com.

For his part, Mr. Tew says he wants to keep milliondollarhomepage.com online "forever." If and when a million pixels are sold, he says he'll leave the page frozen in time, no changes allowed, no new buyers permitted. His ultimate goal is as lofty as the original concept: He hopes his site will be like a time capsule showing "what's possible on the Internet" -- an iconic image that he imagines "one day might be a piece of art in a museum."

Write to Gwendolyn Bounds at wendy.bounds@wsj.com

Friday, October 28, 2005

week in review

This week was a pretty positive week for us. Getting listed on the Blogs of Note was great for our traffic and we've been logging about 300 uniques per day to the main site. We've broken $2275 and we should have it all updated by tonight.

Few ideas being tossed around right now...One of them brought to our attention has been broadening the scope of where we put our donations. Although Katrina needs financial help, there are other natural disasters occuring in the US and around the world. All of the money would still got the Red Cross, but we would donate it into different hurricane reliefs such as Wilma, Rita and the Earthquakes in Pakistan. Please post some comments in the forums and let us know what you think. Any name change ideas?

Thank you to everyone who has been buying up pixels. Your support is appreciated. We've been getting some interesting donors from sites such as Save The Ta-Tas and Doombuggies. Wouldn't it be funny if someone bought up pixels to propose...like on the megatron at a baseball game?

-Steve and Keith-

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

saturday afternoon and final thoughts on the weekend...

For the final leg of our time in Mississippi we were supposed to be working on projects further south, towards New Orleans. Because of how day-to-day things happen, however, these projects were unable to happen. On our way back I got some pictures of the damage that is still evident in the area.

The golden arches - just about all of the street signs were blown out like this. It is shocking to see miles of commercial areas with businesses that still have not fully recovered from the disaster.

We passed by a CVS that was operating out of a trailer. It is amazing that when people need something like medicine, quick and dirty solutions are thrown up to fill that need.


The weekend spent in Mississippi was a great experience. In the short time that we were there, we were able to make an impact. Although not all of the projects we lined up happened as planned, just being able to help others in need made the trip worth it. A student group on campus, Alternative Break will be making a follow-up trip to the region in the beginning of January.

On a side note, none of the money for this trip came out of NickelsForKatrina.org. This was a trip organized by the Division of Student Affairs at Carnegie Mellon University. With the generous help of Shernell Smith and Rowshawn Palmer, we were able to get it together on such short notice.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading, commenting, donating and putting up our banner. Your support is appreciated.

-Steve and Keith-

Free Cellphones for Katrina Victims

Found this on on Gizmodo today...an interesting idea.

Free Cellphones for Katrina Victims: "The FCC has approved a plan by the feds to give all Katrina evacuees free cellphones with 300 minutes of talk time. Now I'm sure they're not handing out pink RAZRs to those in need so it's not an issue of logistics. So when did Katrina happen? Oh right, almost 2 months ago. I'm sure if someone needed a cellphone, they'd have it by now. What about people affected by more recent hurricanes like Wilma? There's trouble in paradise down in Floridia and I'm sure they could use those hot Cingular and Tracfone phones right about now. Anyway, enough kvetching. The offer is open to every household approved for housing assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the FCC. Give 'em a call if you need something... oh. That's right. Just hit the web... oh. Poop.

Feds give out free phones to Katrina evacuees [Textually]"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

a clever one

We got some more donations to the site yesterday. One that we thought was particularly interesting is another non-profit: Save The Ta-Tas. They sell clever T-Shirts to benefit breast cancer. Their link is in the upper left hand corner of the site. Be sure to check them out.

Hattiesburgh

On Saturday morning we spent some time in Hattiesburgh at another recovery supplies center. The city of Hattiesburgh used a condemned high school gym to recieve, store and manage donations. While there we did similar stuff to what we did at the Gateway Rescue Center.