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Advertising space on the web has typically been sold by the banner and by the click. Now, thanks to a hot new concept called pixel marketing, it’s being sold by the pixel. That’s right. Just when you thought there was nothing left to sell, the web has profitably parceled into blocks of pixels that advertisers are snapping up to promote their brands.

Here’s how pixel marketing works. Pages are made up of pixel grids, typically of one million pixels which generally sell from 50 cents to $1 each. An advertiser who buys blocks of these pixels can design an image which will be displayed on them, and will link visitors to a corresponding website.

The idea for pixel marketing is credited to Alex Tew, a 21-year-old student from Wiltshire, England, who developed The to raise funds for his university education. Tew launched the site on August 26, 2005. Within three days of the launch, with no marketing budget, Tew sold his first 20 x 20 pixel block. Motivated, he put out a press release. Two weeks later, he had made enough money to pay for his first year at university. He has now made more than half a million dollars.

In his Million Dollar Blog from August 26, Tew wrote, “I thought, this could be something crazy enough to work! Because I think people like crazy/quirky ideas. If this captures people's imaginations and people check out the site, then the pixels on the homepage will have value  — and people will buy them … The way I see it though: I've got nothing to lose by trying. And I'm sure it'll be fun.”

It turned out to be fun and very profitable. In no time, pixel marketing began catching on like wildfire.  

“Watch out, it could be the next most prominent event since Google Adsense,” writes UK marketing consultant Julie Vernon in her article “What is Pixel Promotion All About?”

But could pixel marketing pose a serious threat to Google Adsense? It’s still too early to predict the growth of this intriguing new form of marketing.  

“Driving this new medium is the notion that pay per click costs too much,” writes George Hubka in his article “What is Pixel Advertising?” “If you had 10 clicks a day at 10 cents each, in one year it would cost you $365! Take that out 5 years and you are talking about over $1800! The reality is that often clicks cost a lot more than 10 cents each, which translates to a whole lot more money. People have been reported paying more than $50 a click.”

Not only are pixel ads cheaper than banners and Adsense, many site owners have sworn to keep their sites live for several years so advertisers get long-range results and pay less for it.

Right now, it’s fascinating to watch this new type of marketing vehicle in its infancy. What will pixel marketing ultimately become when it grows up? It’s anyone’s guess but it should be fun to watch it grow.

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