The Million Dollar Homepage is one of those beautifully simple ideas you want to kick yourself for not thinking of first — especially when it’s actually worth a million dollars.
Like countless tertiary students the world over, UK youngster Alex Tew wondered how he’d pay for tuition fees, books and his social life and not be in debt until his 40s.
So, while brainstorming with a notepad in August 2005, he says the idea ‘seemingly popped out of nowhere. Almost like my subconscious mind had been ticking over in the background, working it all out.’
Online banner advertising is one of the corpses still lying among the dotcom ruins ‘ no marketing strategy takes it seriously anymore. But Tew did just that, dividing his web page into a million pixels and aiming to sell them for $1 each.
And it worked. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the medium became the message, and milliondollarhomepage.com sparked one of those publicity-like-wildfire stories that sweeps the world and captures the public imagination every couple of years.
Soon Tew had enough money not only to pay his way through university, but probably buy a plush house as well. Everybody from grotty blog sites to the biggest online casinos and hosting services in the world bought up space, and imitators are springing up with astonishing speed, everything from the Down Under Million Dollar Page to the Million Dollar Porn Page.
Meanwhile, after entries on his blog that contain frequent utterances of ‘surreal’ and ‘unbelievable’ and a publicity tour of the US, Tew is attending university (presumably all paid for) and lapping up the envy, attention, and money of people from every corner of the world.
In an ironic twist, Tew’s studying Business Management. In less than six months, he’s experienced enough to write the course himself.