Friday, December 30, 2005

Million-Dollar Home Page: Thinking Small with Ad Aggregation Yields Big Profits and Click-Throughs

Reuters reports on the idle dream of a U.K. college student hard-pressed to come up with his tuition money that turned into big money overnight. His Million-Dollar Home Page sells ad space for $1 a pixel for advertisers wanting to put up a graphic with a link and some supporting text that pops up when you point your screen cursor over an item. Kind of a dumb idea? Maybe so, except for one thing - the page has almost completely sold out its inventory of a million ad display pixels and has attracted attention from potential investors. Even more significantly, the page is generating traffic for advertisers that is providing an excellent return on investment, attracting big-name advertisers along with smaller fry trying to get some sort of visibility in the limitless space of Web advertising. What's at play here is an old idea that has found new life in the Web community. Think of Million-Dollar Home Page like a microscopic Times Square of online ads, random signage that's attractive in its ability to entertain people by the sheer number of large and small interesting and novel sights in a crowd. There's something very fundamental about enjoying picking something interesting out from a busy landscape, I suppose.

Regardless of the metaphor that applies to this phenomenon it is interesting that this idea is proven out with such tiny pieces of variable Web real estate within a fixed block. Million-Dollar Home Page is proving this out in a very static model, but imagine what this could look like if it were combined with auctioned contextual advertising and social bookmarking topic heatmaps found on services such as del.icio.us. Ad values could soar per pixel of attractive screen real estate in the most valuable contexts and be tweaked from click to click depending on a given audience. The power of tiny advertising units is proven out already in a small way with VietmamNet, which provides tiny logo ads on the section headers of its navigation. It's a little like a ride in a Tokyo subway, where every tiny surface that the eye can appreciate gets used for ad space. In 2006 the key to big ad dollars online may be borne out in thinking about smaller increments of screen space that can be of use to advertisers and attractive to audiences.
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