|Thu Dec 4 2008 23:04:52|
eBay Replaces Community with Commodity
By: Ina Steiner
Rachel Makool, Senior Director of Community Development, is said to be leaving eBay at the end of the year. This would follow eBay's October layoffs of the "Pinks," the customer-facing employees who spent their time moderating the discussion boards. eBay is centralizing its global operations, virtually shutting down many country offices. eBay has been making a series of changes that, when put together, looks like a very different company from even 1 year ago.
Changes made to community go beyond staffing. eBay cancelled its annual eBay Live conference and no longer holds monthly "Town Hall" meetings with members. One source tells us eBay is revamping its long-running Voices program, bringing it under the domain of Seller Development and eliminating input on policy issues. Users are speculating that eBay will close at least some of the discussion boards.
Community was the cornerstone of eBay's success. Former President of eBay North America Bill Cobb recognized the importance of communicating with users - they often didn't like what he had to say, but he believed in letting members ask questions and voice their opinions. He attended user conferences and the monthly webcast Town Hall meetings.
But changes at eBay this year go well beyond management style and personalities. The closure of eBay Live Auctions, the limits on what designer items smaller sellers are allowed to list, changes to feedback, the launch of "Large Merchant Services" API technology - they all point to an eBay much more about commodity, and much less about community.
Since John Donahoe took the reigns from Meg Whitman, it's been clear change is in the air (he calls it Disruptive Innovation). It may be in this former management consultant's DNA to cut programs and staffing (Donahoe is sometimes referred to as one of the "Bobs," a reference to the movie Office Space). But what remains somewhat of a mystery is what his vision is for what is left of eBay. An Amazon clone? An ad platform?
In April, top eBay executives speaking at conferences said eBay was moving towards a more retail-like experience, and that "you will not recognize eBay this time next year." Truer words could not have been spoken, and once the holiday shopping season is over, we're likely to see more change.