Slide Show >>It began with one red paper clip—and ended with a house. Kyle MacDonald, a 26-year-old native of Belcarra, B.C., Canada, traveled to a small town in rural Saskatchewan on July 12 to accept his new home, earned through a series of trades that started with a single red paper clip.
Inspired by a childhood game called "Bigger or Better," he posted a picture of the paper clip on his blog at http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/ exactly one year earlier. He asked readers to send offers for bigger or better things. His goal was stated at the end of the post: "I'm going to make a continuous chain of 'up trades' until I get a house. Or an Island. Or a house on an island. You get the idea."
But MacDonald wasn't the only one who scored big. Some participants scored items that were useful in their own right. One got a 1,000-watt portable generator, and another got an IOU for a keg of beer.
YAHK FREEZE IS OVER. Several traders gained some pretty valuable publicity. Jody Gnant, the lucky up-and-coming recording artist who received a recording contract in exchange for a year's free rent in her Phoenix duplex, got priceless media exposure. MacDonald put links to Gnant's Web site, www.jodygnant.com, on his blog, which has had 5.6 million visitors. "There's been a huge response," Gnant says. "Definitely people have come to my Web site probably who would not have seen it without One Red Paper Clip."
Now, fans of the One Red Paper Clip project from all over the world have looked into Gnant's music after reading about her role in the story. "People are e-mailing me from Japan that say they love the music," she says. MacDonald has already invited the "entire world" to his housewarming party over Labor Day weekend. Gnant plans to perform for the festivities. She's even recording a song dedicated to the project and promises to stay connected with its community. "Kyle can expect me to be sleeping on his floor quite a bit over the course of the next year, I can imagine," she says.
MacDonald's seventh trade garnered him a trip to Yahk, B.C., from the magazine SnoRiders West. MacDonald had previously quipped to a TV interviewer that Yahk was the only place on Earth he wouldn't go to seal a trade. When the magazine offered him the trip in exchange for a Ski-doo snowmobile, he couldn't resist. Everyone involved got some media exposure from the event. In addition, SnoRiders West published many articles following MacDonald's project. The magazine ended up trading the snowmobile to a local database consultant in exchange for his services.
ROCK STAR TREATMENT. MacDonald's final exchange, for the house in Kipling, Saskatchewan, is with the city itself. The town traded the house for an acting role in an upcoming film, which had been traded to MacDonald by actor Corbin Bernsen. Kipling will hold open auditions for the film over Labor Day weekend, the same time MacDonald has promised to host "Saskatchewan's Biggest Housewarming Party, Ever." The auditions and the party are open to anyone in the world who wants to make the trek to the town of 1,100.
What began as one man's quest for a house grew into a prime example of the grassroots publicity power of the Web. Even famed shock rocker Alice Cooper got involved, bringing MacDonald on stage at a concert, where he toted a giant red paper clip, before bursting a blood-filled balloon over MacDonald's head. And to think it all started with a tiny metal clip.
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