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Swagbucks can make online video habits pay

Sony Corp.PlayStationBBCAmazon KindleAmazon.com Inc.Sarah Jones

Aprille Magille spends about eight hours a day watching videos on the Internet.

But the 56-year-old retiree isn't bored or in need of a hobby. She's actually earning rewards for every video she watches that she has used to buy a Kindle, a tablet, pots and pans, a rice cooker and even a counter-top oven.

Magille is a member of Swagbucks, a Los Angeles firm that offers virtual currency to people in return for watching videos, playing games or taking part in market research.

Think of it as a frequent-flier program for online video watchers. Members are rewarded "swagbucks" for watching videos online that they can redeem for rewards including Amazon gift cards. Each swagbuck is worth 1 cent and the maximum members can earn in a day is about 150 swagbucks, or $1.50. It is hardly a get-rich-quick scheme. The rate varies for people using mobile apps.

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"It's kind of like having a job," Magille says of her habit.

Swagbucks, a unit of Prodege, has over 10 million registered members and has shelled out close to $60 million in rewards since it launched in 2008. It doesn't break out how much of that $60 million was for its video service.

"If I'm looking for a video, I check there first," says Alex Simon, a junior at Cal State Northridge. He's used swagbucks to by a Sony PlayStation Vita, camping gear and even textbooks. 

Swagbucks makes its money by selling advertisements that run in the videos, which sometimes are news stories from WSJ Live or BBC Worldwide, or clips from NBC's "Tonight Show." Swagbucks has content deals with Hulu, Hitfix, Reuter News, Hollyscoop and others. The privately held company said that it had revenue of $53 million in 2013, up from $35 million in 2012, and that it is profitable. 

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