Strategy consultant Sramina Mitra has been blogging about the possible benefits of a Yahoo-eBay merger since September 2005 (she calls it "YahooBAY"). In April of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that eBay was talking to both Yahoo and Microsoft to determine whether one of them might be a worthy ally against the common threat of Google. Wall Street analysts have also tossed around the idea of eBay as a possible acquisition target.
So the multi-year strategic partnership between eBay and Yahoo announced in May did not a total shock to some industry observers. But the question remains, is the partnership as far as it goes, or is it an "engagement to be married"?
While mere speculation by pundits and analysts at this point, a planned merger could explain some things.
- eBay's willingness to allow Yahoo Search Marketing ads to appear on their search results, which is otherwise hard to believe, since the ads compete directly with eBay sellers' listings.
- Similarly, the phasing out of eBay Keywords ad program announced on August 23 (Yahoo Search Marketing ads are likely to replace those ads).
- So called "brain-drain," including COO Maynard Webb (who was not replaced), and PayPal President Jeff Jordan - this despite the fact Jordan was viewed as heir apparent to eBay CEO Meg Whitman. (Why be a small cog in the YahooBAY machine?)
- eBay's reversal in promoting its Store inventory format and push toward "core." Yahoo already has its own Stores, and it knows the benefits of using ever-changing auction content as contextual advertising space.
- eBay's failure to promote ProStores as a way for Store owners to list inventory that just doesn't make sense on eBay.com. (Though it still may be conflicted about pushing sellers to a multi-channel platform.)
- eBay's push to drive up its stock price through its stock-buyback plan and fee hike (Wall Street loves those fee hikes).
Sramina Mitra said in October, "...at least 5 different properties that Yahoo has could tremendously leverage eBay: Small Business, Stores, Search, Shopping, and Overture" (link). Time will tell if her vision of YahooBAY comes true.