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Date Published: January 15, 2006

The Charlotte Observer (News article on pixel advertising)


JOHN MCBRIDE, Staff Writer

I wish I thought of pixel advertising first. If I had, I would be a million dollars richer. Instead some guy from England is.

Pixel advertising is ludicrous. It's a Web page filled with nothing but little ads. There's no search results, no latest headlines, no downloads, no content. It breaks all the rules.

This only burnishes its allure.

"Pixel" is a word mash-up of "picture elements." Thousands of them together form the image you see when you look at your computer monitor, assuming it's on.

Picture a grid that covers your computer desktop, with columns and rows like an Excel spreadsheet. Now make each cell really, really tiny, no more than a dot through which light passes. That's a pixel.

What the English guy, Alex Tew, did was imagine pixels as billboards. In August he launched a site that was nothing more than a grid of 10,000 squares of 100 pixels each. He offered the pixels to advertisers for $1 each, minimum order 100 pixels. Click on an ad and go to the advertiser's site.

Do the math and you'll understand why he called it He told Reuters he needed money for college.

No way I could have thought of that. If I did I would have rejected the idea instantly. Who would pay for pixels? Who would visit such a useless site?

Lots of people. Tew sold some pixels and the more he did the louder the buzz grew and the more he sold. The Wall Street Journal reported that at one point Tew's site ranked among the most popular on the Web.

His success spawned hundreds of similar sites, including those of Christian Abad of Charlotte.

Abad (pronounced AY-bad) runs Accessible Computing, a Web design and development business in Charlotte. He heard about Tew, became "totally fascinated" by pixel advertising and started

Maybe it doesn't make sense, but Abad is still upbeat. "It's a neat alternative to text-based advertising like Google because it's visual," he said. "The biggest issue is getting traffic to your Web site."

Abad says people visit pixel sites for fun. "Humans are naturally curious. They want to find out what's behind door number three."

Abad's not sure the craze will endure enough for anyone besides Tew to get rich. "It's hot now," he said. "Will it be around in five or 10 years? Hard to say."

In case it is, Abad also registered a number of other domain names for future pixel advertising sites, like, and "It could be used to promote communities," he said.

The Web has lost much of its Wild West, anything-goes aura. It's dominated now by big business, going where the money is. Tew and Abad prove there's still opportunities for individuals with ideas.

Abad offers his pixels for 50 cents each - half what Tew charged. Abad has sold 16,900 pixels. Only 983,100 to go. Tew sold his last 1,000 on Jan. 11 via auction on eBay.

Think Abad wishes he thought of pixel advertising first? "Of course," he said.


John McBride, MCSE, MCP+I, is an applications analyst at the Observer: [email protected]; (704) 358-5513.

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