How would you like a free iPod?

Meranda Watling

Online company found to be legit

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but free iPods are the next best thing.

Credit: Andrew popik

The best things in life are free.

Just ask Kevin Schudel. The senior computer science major gets to enjoy life while using his computer with his new 17-inch flat-screen monitor and listening to his 20GB iPod, both of which he received absolutely free.

“I wouldn’t have been able to afford an iPod or LCD monitor,” he says. “You figure that’s like $300 for (the iPod) and $250 to $300 for the LCD monitor.”

But, he says, “I haven’t spent a cent.”

So how did he score such expensive things without paying? He took a chance and signed up for a site,, he saw on a message board. is one of many sites run by Gratis Network, a marketing company that has taken affiliate marketing — think signing up for credit cards to get a free T-shirt — to a whole new level with the Internet. works like this: Schudel signed up and completed an offer with one of the advertisers; he recruited five more friends to complete offers with one of the advertisers; once everyone completed offers, the company sent Schudel an iPod.

Schudel said he didn’t pay anything and none of his friends did either. They signed up for offers that were free, though not all offers are free.

But if people will sign up just for a free T-shirt, why give away such expensive products?

Gratis gets paid for sending people to advertisers. To get more people to come to its sites and go to more advertisers, the company decided to offer top-of-the-line products people actually wanted.

The New York Times, WIRED and the Boston Globe have all reported the offers are legitimate. And many Web sites have sprung up to help people get referrals to complete the offers.

Since launching in June 2004, the company has given away more than 10,000 free iPods.

But Kent State students are still skeptical.

“There has to be some kind of catch,” sophomore psychology major Jeremey McCleskey said.

Freshman marketing major Frankie Dillon echoed McCleskey: “Yeah, right, there’s a catch somewhere.”

Yet both say they plan to sign up for now that they know it actually works.

To get that free iPod, however, it won’t be easy. Schudel said the hardest part about getting his free iPod was convincing his friends to sign up.

“It took a month and a half to two months to convince people to sign up at first,” he said.

But he said the wait was worth it.

“It was free,” he said. “I don’t mind waiting for something that’s free.”

Contact technology reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].