The new Pixelotto — a tax on the stupid

Remember the “Million-Dollar Homepage”? A 21-year-old guy named from Wiltshire, England named Alex Tew came up with an insanely brilliant and at the same time ridiculously stupid idea: auction off individual pixels on a webpage to companies as advertising space, and then use the money to pay for university. As Homer Simpson once put it, Alex was stupid like a fox. Companies paid, in part because people wrote about the site, and last January the site sold its last pixel.

The total haul? $1.04-million. Alex paid for his first year of university two weeks after he opened the site, and raised more than $150,000 within just two months. He went to university but dropped out because he was too busy with all the interview requests and related opportunities. So what has Alex decided to do? As Natali explains at TechCrunch, he’s doing pretty much the same thing, but without the university tuition pitch, and for $2 a pixel instead of $1 — with a lottery to see who wins half of the $2-million purse.


Natali figures people will be too smart this time, because it’s already been done, and because it’s obvious that the new site Pixelotto is just a marketing ploy, and not some innocent student trying to pay for his calculus books. I’m not so sure though.

As more than one commenter has pointed out over at TechCrunch, the secret is publicity — if it gets written about, companies will want to ride on that wagon no matter how stupid it might seem. And there’s no question it is unbelievably stupid. The original site looks like a bad acid trip, with tiny banners crammed up against each other, completely unreadable. Is that good marketing?

In the end, of course, Alex laughed all the way to the bank — and likely will again. Anyone who comes up with a new definition of the “tax on the stupid” (as I like to call lotteries) deserves everything he gets.

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