A long time ago, just about 11 – 12 years ago which is a century in internet time, you could really make a boatload of money for free online.
I’ve used the phrase “the good old days” a few times on this blog, so I thought I may write a post about exactly what I’m referring to.
To go back, I’ve always loved freebies. There has just always been something about getting some little package in the mail for free that I adored. Back before everyone had web pages, and the most you could do online was use email or surf around AOL, I used to have a printed freebie newsletter that I managed. After school I’d comb through magazines and find all the free offers I could, and type them up in my word processor. Then I’d leave the newsletter around at different stores, laundromats, community bulletin boards, etc. I was always really thrilled with the idea of spreading the news that there were free things out there.
Fast forward a few years, and I had a freebie site of my own. I taught myself how to make a web page (old, basic HTML) and had a fairly popular site. It’s dead now, but from time to time I go out to archive.org and take a look at the copy of it there. It seems like a million years ago. I laugh at the horrible web design, although at least I can claim it was a clean and fast loading site. While it started as being focused on freebies, it soon turned into a free money site with the advent of pay to surf programs.
I feel a little ashamed now at the amount of promoting I did for these programs, because they all were the precursors of adware as we know it today. But I wasn’t alone in promoting them. There were hundreds of websites set up with people promoting sites like All Advantage.
And I made money. A ton of money.
Not as much as some. The site of my original referrer used to make around $5,000 per month, just from All Advantage alone, and if memory serves even he wasn’t one of the biggest earners.
There were a lot of other sites too. Some of them are still around, like MyPoints, MemoLink, InBox Dollars, etc, although they don’t pay anywhere near what they used to. It seemed like anyone with a pulse could get hundreds of thousands of dollars in startup money, and then pay people to run buggy, system hogging toolbars showing ads.
After a few years, these sites started to close shop one by one. They were overrun with users running cheat programs, to simulate actual surfing so that people could get paid for not actually being at their computer, and simulating fake referral surfing. Sometimes sites weren’t prepared for the amount of activity they would get as compared to the advertisers they actually had, and couldn’t afford to pay out.Advertisers soon learned that the ad dollars they were spending weren’t netting them any actual sales, and they started looking elsewhere.
As the amount of money I could make each money dwindled I lost interest, and eventually abandoned my site and closed out my mailing list. It was only recently that I started to wonder if I could try it again.
I’m seeing a lot of pay to click sites now, but I’m not really fond of that genre. I’m more interested in surveys myself. I wanted to see what would happen if I started over from scratch, with zero referrals, what would happen in a year? How much could I actually make.
It’s still early in the game, so time will tell on that one.
One thing’s for sure though, I still miss that money I used to make.