Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Three cheers for innovation

Anyone disputing the power of the internet must be having second thoughts this year as a string of – admittedly quite bizarre and novel – ideas have helped secure its place as one of the most innovative business tools of the modern age.

In January this year an undergraduate student from Wiltshire created the Million Dollar Homepage, a website made up of one million pixels that he sold as individual pieces of advertising space, netting him a heap of publicity and a few pounds in the process.

Alex Tew, the brains behind the scheme, who just a year ago was a typical student, trying to make ends meet at Nottingham University, is now writing a book about the five-month journey from obscurity to stardom and speaking regularly on the business circuit.

But perhaps the most bizarre tale concerns a Canadian chap called Kyle McDonald.

Exactly a year ago to the day MacDonald created One Red Paperclip, a website to launch his somewhat wacky plan: to trade a simple red paper clip for house.

Since 12 July 2005 he has indeed managed to swap his red paperclip for a piece of property in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

The escapade has seen him swap such items as a doorknob for a camping stove, a beer keg for a snowmobile, a rent-free apartment for a year for an afternoon with rocker Alice Cooper, before finally trading a part in a Hollywood film for the house in Canada.

The achievement is all the more fascinating because of his use of the internet, mostly through his blog, to create massive interest in the adventure.

Not a huge deal in this post related to online travel – just a fascinating tale of how innovation, smart publicity and the internet can create remarkable results.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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