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Pixelotto: Turning buzz into hard cash

The creator of the Million Dollar Homepage, Alex Tew, has launched a new site. Is this the ultimate monetisation of Internet buzz?

The creator of the Million Dollar Homepage, Alex Tew, has launched a new site called Pixelotto. The original site earned Tew a cool million and Pixelotto aims to do the same. The difference, however, is that this time it's a lottery-based system and each pixel will cost $2 instead of just $1. One lucky registered visitor who clicks on a Pixelotto ad will win 50 per cent of the site's total revenue: $1m -- cue Dr Evil laugh.

Since 22-year-old Tew started the Million Dollar Homepage last year there have been a plethora of copycat sites, each one aiming to emulate his success. From straightforward copycat sites such as to innovative ones such as, to downright distasteful ones like, the list is endless. Fortunately for Alex, he has the power of the press behind him and since Pixelotto's launch it has received the kind of press attention that will have advertisers flocking to him.

(It should be noted that Pixelotto has a UK lottery licence, so if you live elsewhere you should read the site's terms and conditions carefully. You don't have to pay to enter, but you do have to register.)

But is Pixelotto a cynical manipulation of the media or a worthwhile business? Selling pixels is completely legitimate. It's as legitimate as putting ads online, or any other Web site for that matter. In this case, what is really being sold is viral realty, which is essentially online space that's very popular. Viral realty is what drives MySpace and YouTube. It's the most bang you can get for your online buck.

It begs the question: does it work? According to advertisers on the Million Dollar Homepage, it does, with some linked sites seeing a significant increase in their traffic. So that brings us to our final query -- why is it that we buy software to block spam, rapidly delete emails that offer us untold treasures and scoff at cheesy TV ads, but are captivated by a screen full of small, often unreadable ads?

The fact is that Tew has tapped into something rather special and people are coming in their droves, not because they're interested in ads but because they've heard about it on the news or online and want to check it out straight away. This perfectly exemplifies one of the greatest driving forces of the Internet -- buzz.

The site is thriving: Tew has already made over $110,000 (£56,000) and that figure will increase dramatically the more press coverage he gets. Tew has mastered the art of creating media buzz and as long as he continues to provide innovative products, the money will keep rolling in. If the buzz dies out though, he will quickly fade into Internet history, rather like a one-hit-wonder pop star. -AL