In 2005, The MillionDollarHomepage (MDH) made internet history by selling one million pixels for one dollar per pixel, generating a whopping one million dollars for its owner. Now, almost 2 years and thousands of copy-cat sites later, pixel advertising is all but dead. This writer believes that with the proper implementation, pixel advertising could rise again.
The MDH was a brilliant idea and while it served its purpose, had several flaws that prevented it from thriving after the million pixels were sold. In case the reader isn’t familiar with the MDH, I’ll provide some basic history. MDH had a 1 megapixel image on its homepage and it sold 10 X 10 pixel blocks of this image for people to advertise on, which would link to their websites when clicked. They could not change the image and were limited as to what details people would see when they moved their mouse over the micro-ad. It sold these 10 X 10 blocks (100 pixels) for one dollar a pixel (the minimum purchase was 100 dollars). All one million pixels sold in just over 4 months (give or take). The site was getting an insane amount of traffic so advertisers were chomping at the bit to get their ad on the website. Some of the space even went up on eBay towards the end for much more than the original price.
The problem with MDH was the price was too high (relatively speaking) that most ads were really too small to see. It was really by the luck of the draw or how flashy your 10 X 10 image was whether your ad got clicked or not. As the dust settled, the advertisers on MDH realized that people were really only coming to the webpage to see if it was filling up and what click traffic they were receiving from the site was “trash” traffic. The copy-cat sites that emerged only compounded the problem by trying to exploit what MDH had already done wrong. A very negative tone echoed throughout the web about micro-advertising and the “fad” has died out over the last 12 months or so. Don’t get me wrong, this was obviously a good idea since MDH did achieve its goal, it could have been so much more though.
So how can pixel advertising make a comeback? The same idea as the original site can still be applied but something has to be done to keep visitors coming back for more. Advertisers will no longer pay the one dollar per pixel price for such small, unnoticeable ads so the price must be lowered. Advertisers also need other incentives to advertise on the site. Advertisers need to be able to change their ads when they want. The system needs to be fully automated. The ads need to be accessible other ways than just having the ad displayed on a grid. There needs to be more space available to advertise on but not so much that it becomes a commodity. And finally, the site must be promoted. A good site will just sit there without the proper promotion, I don’t care how unique and innovative it is.
These few small changes could really turn a good idea into a great idea and breathe new life into the pixel advertising industry. It seems so simple but no one has been able to effectively put all of these elements in place since the MDH. I think there is still a place out there for pixel advertising. Only time will tell if anyone can pull it off.