Can you spot the catch with this $10 Nexus S over at eBay?
Barnes & Noble’s Nookcolor is a good e-reader that leads a secret double life as a reasonably-priced Android tablet. And now B&N is selling them on eBay for a startlingly low price: $199.
Over the past twelve years, I’ve sold thousands of dollars worth of stuff on eBay, and bought even more. And if I were to make a list of my biggest eBay annoyances, packaging would be high on the list. When items have arrived damaged, it’s usually been because the carton and/or the padding have been flimsy. And when I sell anything, I generally have to scout around for a decent box.
So I love the idea of an official, high-quality eBay box–which is what eBay is experimenting with right now. (I learned about them at an eBay press day which I’m attending today.)
By Harry McCracken | Posted at 5:12 pm on Friday, August 13, 2010
I had fun this week visiting with Richard Brewer-Hay, the blogger who presides over eBay Ink, eBay’s official corporate blog. We talked about his adventures interacting with the gigantic, highly opinionated community of communities that’s made up of people interested in eBay, PayPal, StubHub, and other eBay-owned sites and services. (I’ve never met an eBay user who doesn’t have strong opinions on it, although the same person may be fiercely positive or fiercely negative depending on when I ask.)
Richard is also in charge of the eBay Ink Twitter feed, and one thing he said about Twitter resonated with me. Some of his followers prefer to make contact with him at Twitter over the eBay Blog itself, because eBay has complete control over the blog and very little control over its presence on Twitter. They’re suspicious that eBay might be tamping down dissent in the blog’s comments, and pleased that Richard couldn’t suppress @replies and other tweets about eBay even if he wanted to do so.
eBay, which rolled out a couple of new iPhone apps earlier this week, plans to be on the iPad the moment it launches on Saturday. I haven’t even seen the eBay app on a simulated iPad yet, but folks from eBay showed me some images and explained the thinking behind the app. Rather than duplicating the iPhone version or bringing each and every feature from eBay.com, they decided to focus on making the iPad app the most visual incarnation of the service to date–one that feels like window shopping in the real world, and is optimized for browsing the service from the comfort of a sofa or easy chair.
So the classic eBay list of items is gone–you find stuff to buy or bid on via a gallery of images in which each picture is quite large, and you use your fingertip to scroll through a never-ending procesion of products–they’re not broken into multiple pages. When you find items you like, you can view pictures that fill the iPad screen.
Sounds like a logical approach to take–and I’m curious whether the iPad’s already-legendary zippiness makes trolling through eBay even more addictive. After the jump, a few screen shots of the app (in the form of a mini-slideshow–I’m experimenting with a new WordPress feature).
By Harry McCracken | Posted at 9:36 am on Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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By Harry McCracken | Posted at 8:20 am on Wednesday, April 15, 2009
My taxes? Filed. Whew! You?
With its auction business struggling, eBay is turning to its Paypal arm for salvation. According to an BusinessWeek article, the company plans to use its annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday to focus on its plans for its payment arm.
New eBay CEO John Donohoe has already said that he believes PayPal will overtake its auction revenues in the not-too-distant future. That wouldn’t be hard to believe either: even with PayPal’s popularity as an online payment medium, here in the US where it used the most, only 12 percent of all online payments are processed through the service.
Obviously PayPal has a lot of room to grow. So how is eBay going to do it? By going after those companies and organizations that use online payments everyday. Charities and organizations rely on a lot of online donations, and some government services allow for online payments of taxes, bills, and fines. Both could easily integrate PayPal into their offerings.
In addition, the service plans to offer an SDK of sorts to encourage developers of e-commerce apps to fully integrate paypal into their offerings, such as Apple has within iTunes. This could also increase the company’s share of online payments.
With people moving away from credit cards with the recession, using services like PayPal may make sense. Like the BusinessWeek article infers, people only want to spend the money they have. Expanding at a time like this could pay dividends later as people get used to using the service regularly.
Next time you hear some media talking head claiming that hurting consumers are running to eBay in droves for better deals, you can call their bluff. Nielsen released data that shows the auction site is continuing to lose eyes as the economy worsens. The data shows a precipitous drop off beginning in September, right around the time the US economy really began to tank.
eBay saw its some of its best times late last year, averaging around 13.5-14.5 million pageviews per month during the holiday season. However, after those good times, the auction site began a essentially steady decline.
You can almost see the point when consumers began to panic. August shows about 11 million pageviews, but by September that had fallen to 9.4 million. October was even worse, ending at about 9.1 million pageviews. The August to September drop was the largest decline outside of the normal post-holiday slump in two years of data.
Now forgive me here — I am no math major — but I’m going to do some number crunching. Using last holiday as a guide, it looks like we can expect about a 10% or so bump up for the holidays. Even if this occurs, eBay’s traffic would be down about 20-30% year over year. This seems about right — October’s traffic numbers were down a third from last year.
The economy may not be the only reason here. Silicon Alley Insider (which I think goes a bit overboard with the title, it is not that bad yet) surmises that stronger competition as well as the fact that eBay’s value proposition isn’t as great is also helping to accelerate the decline.
I’d agree with this: eBay has become less of a bargain these days. I’m noticing that more and more items look like a good deal at first glance, yet the money’s being made elsewhere, whether through “handling” charges, or obviously inflated shipping costs.
eBay’s not helping either, alienating some of its sellers by tinkering with its selling fees far too much.
For those of you that like pretty little charts, I’ve included this data graphically after the jump.
“Don’t just shop–win!” That’s been eBay’s slogan for quite awhile now. But it looks like it might be appropriate to flop it around into “Don’t just win–shop!”
The New York Times is reporting that the world’s biggest auction site is tired of being the world’s biggest auction site. Starting in September, it plans to change its fee structure to encourage sellers to use “Buy It Now” pricing, which lets buyers grab a product at a fixed price rather than bidding. It’s a reaction to general sluggishness in the company’s auction business (which, the Times says, accounts for 57 percent of eBay revenues–the majority, but far from an overwhelming majority).
“We love the auction model,” the Times quotes eBay Marketplace Laurie Norrington as saying. “It’s still a great model for certain types of sales.” For eBay, that sounds like less than a truly ringing endorsement; it’s as if the president of Coca-Cola was reduced to assuring people that the company loved cola and thought it was a great drink for some occasions.
My instinct is to bristle at this news. I’ve been an eBay bidder for almost eleven years, and a seller (from time to time) for almost as long. eBay auctions are fun and I’ve bought into the philosophy that–as long as you’re not in a hurry–an auction is a near-perfect form of commerce that lets customers determine what a product is really worth. Besides, I’m a traditionalist, and the notion of eBay being anything less than deeply into auctions is jarring.
If I understand the news, though, eBay’s not taking anything away or trying to prevent anyone who wants to put a product up for auction from doing so; it’s just making “Buy It Now” more attractive, by lowering the initial listing cost for this option (while raising its final commission). If the auction option is still available, I guess I can’t squawk too loudly–the folks who sell on eBay will ultimately decide how they want to sell.
I’m sure I’ll still buy stuff on eBay; I’m sure I’ll still find rare collectibles (such as vintage Scrappy merchandise) that I’d never find anywhere else. It’s just that my heart may be less likely to race a bit as an auction reaches its final seconds and I’m still in the lead, praying that nobody jumps in and takes what’s rightly mine away from me.
AuctionBytes has more details on eBay changes, including its plans to ban checks and money orders, supposedly to help curtail fraud, though the move will surely also increase business for PayPal and thereby boost eBay’s profits. Funny–I’ve done nearly as many eBay transactions via checks and money orders as with PayPal over the years, and I’ve never been ripped off. I pay by PayPal whenever the option’s there, but I know there are such people as eBay sellers who despite PayPal and refuse to take it; it’ll be interesting to see if they gulp and begin accepting it, or decamp.
Someday we’ll all tell our grandkids about what we were doing during the great Gmail outage of August 11th, 2008. Well, okay, probably not–Google’s e-mail service was down for only a couple of hours, which is relatively brief as Internet outages go. But when one of the world’s most popular mail systems goes missing even briefly, zillions of people are inconvenienced and want to share their frustration. In a weird way, it’s a huge compliment: If Gmail wasn’t essential, nobody would care if it went away.
For a dozen years or so now, the Internet has been a mainstream communications medium, and its history has been pockmarked with examples of big-time services choking for extended periods–often a lot longer than today’s Gmail blip. The most famous examples of unplanned downtime have a lot in common: They usually last longer than anyone expected and get blamed on cryptic technical glitches. Almost always, angry consumers announce they’re done with the service in question; almost always, the service eventually recovers.
Oh, and one more thing: The biggest and most embarrassing failures all seem to happen during the summer months. Maybe technology, like human beings, just doesn’t work quite as hard when the weather’s hot and there are distractions like baseball games, picnics, and vacations to contemplate.
Now that Gmail’s back, it’s worth recapping a few other outages that made headlines when they happened–and since the ones that follow are in alphabetical order, they begin with maybe the most famous one of all (hint: it involved a company whose initials are A.O.L.)…
This I know: A brand has definitively jumped the shark when it’s turned into a slot machine. It’s happened to That Girl and Blondie (the comic strip, not the band) and poor Dean Martin, who isn’t around to give a yay or nay to gambling devices based on his likeness. It’s even happened with the increasingly shopworn Star Wars brand. But I’m in Las Vegas at the moment and was just plain dumbstruck to see penny slot machines inspired by…eBay. Here’s a photo of one from Flickr user Rightonbro:
Yup, the world’s favorite auction site is helping casinos separate customers from their cash. Why any major Web site would lend its name to slots, I’m not entirely sure. Money? Crossmarketing potential? Slot machines are so inherently cheesy that neither opportunity seems remotely worth it. With eBay, though, the implied message is particularly weird: “Hey, using eBay is like gambling, and gambling is like using eBay!” You’d think the very last thing it would want to be associated with is risky financial transactions that may involve the loss of all of one’s money with no recourse to get it back.
Of course, we’re talking about a penny slot machine, so it would be tough to lose one’s shirt. Actually, in the interest of research, I tried the eBay game at the Riviera hotel here–and even though I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, I won enough dough to pay for my dinner.
I may be slightly richer, but the whole idea of eBay slot machines strikes me as baffling, sad evidence that the company isn’t sufficiently protective of its own persona. I take it sort of personally, since I’ve been an eBay users for ten years; I think of it less as a large corporation and more as one of my favorite hangouts on the Web. That in itself strikes me as evidence that the eBay name should be treated with great sensitivity.
I haven’t found any evidence that anyone at eBay has commented on any of this; IGT, the company that manufactured the machines, claims they tap into the community feel of the auction site. Well, maybe, kinda-sorta–there’s a jackpot round that everybody playing a particular bank of eBay slots participates in–but for the most part the eBay connection simply consists of the images on the video slots’ virtual dials depicting some goods one might buy on eBay, such as camcorders and clothing. Not very imaginative; no deep ties to the things that make eBay eBay.
My friend Tony noted that a really good eBay slot machine would automatically deposit winnings in one’s PayPal account. Me, I wonder if the famously faddish gaming industry will introduce slot machines based on any other notable Web sites. I’m virtually positive that Google wouldn’t be interested in licensing itself for such purposes, or at least I sure hope it wouldn’t be. But if there were such a thing as a Google slot machine, it would bring new meaning to the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button…