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Mon Mar 3 2008 15:29:01

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

By: David Steiner

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A couple of things I thought I would do to clear out my inbox while Ina is at the Internet Merchants Association (IMA) conference in Las Vegas. (and can't stop me from blogging.)

Somehow the media has gotten it into their heads (thanks, I believe, to the USA Today article of 2/24) that eBay listings declined 13% due to the boycott. That's number twisting at it's best, but it doesn't stop other publications from picking up the baton of misinformation and running with it.

The author of the USA Today article calculated the drop from Feb 18th, which was 5 days into a 20-cent listing promotion. These spikes in listings should be discounted and the numbers calculated "pre-listing promotion." The listings according to the sites that track eBay listings counts all show essentially no change in eBay listings before or after the boycott.



OK, now that I got that off my chest, here's a little newsflash. Total number of listings on eBay isn't nearly the crystal ball into the future health of the eBay marketplace that a breakdown by categories is.

The fee changes eBay implemented on February 22nd are designed to make listings go up - and they will. But where will new listings be appearing? Glass, Pottery and Porcelain? Books? Consumer Electronics?

Will the new fees strengthen the commodity categories on eBay and weaken antiques and collectibles categories? If eBay becomes a commodity marketplace almost exclusively, can it compete with sites like Amazon?

Here's a decent starting point: On Jan 26th (a Saturday) listings on eBay stood around 12.9 million, according to Medved. On March 1 (another Saturday) listings were approximately 13.5 million, an increase of just about 5%. So did all the categories grow equally? Not by a long shot.

Keep in mind that new listing fees went into effect on February 22nd and most certainly will be driving listing growth in certain categories, and possibly limiting growth in others. While it's still early, I believe watching these trends will say a lot about where eBay is headed as a marketplace:

So, Wall Street and Armchair analysts, get your pencils ready. This is what you should be tracking. And keep in mind the term, "Unintended Consequences." There will be a pop quiz on April 16th, when eBay announces Q1 earnings.

Listing Growth in eBay Categories: 1/26/08 - 3/1/08
Antiques  + 8%
Art +11%
Baby + 4%
Books  +11%
Business & Industrial  + 4%
Cameras & Photo  + 2%
Cell Phones & PDAs + 4%
Clothing, Shoes & Accessories  +11%
Coins & Paper Money + 6%
Collectibles  + 6%
Computers & Networking + 6%
Consumer Electronics + 7%
Crafts +12%
Dolls & Bears  + 6%
DVDs & Movies  + 3%
Entertainment Memorabilia +10%
Gift Certificates + 1%
Health & Beauty + 5%
Home & Garden  +6%
Jewelry & Watches  +6%
Music +13%
Musical Instruments  +3%
Pottery & Glass  +8%
Real Estate  -8%
Specialty Services +20%
Sporting Goods  + 2%
Sports Mem, Cards & Fan Shop + 4%
Stamps + 9%
Tickets  +40%
Toys & Hobbies  + 5%
Travel  -11%
Video Games + 7%
Everything Else  - 6%

Edited to correct the date from 1/29 to 1/26.




Comments (20) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Denise

Mon Mar 3 16:19:16 2008

I'm sure you believe you've made a point with this post but it's not clear EXACTLY what your point is.  You seemed to want to blog about category listings and how listing fee changed the amount of items in the categories.
OK... but I guess you couldn't resist taking a swipe at the sellers boycotting ebay. Since you've indicated that Clothing, etc went up 11% are you removing the thousands of "test" or "accidental" listings that are in that category from your calculations?
Sorry your calculations should be dismissed until you've accounted for ALL of the listings on the site.    

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Mike

Mon Mar 3 16:21:24 2008

Did you forget about the admited padding , er,I'm sorry , test listings ?

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Just a Seller

Mon Mar 3 16:25:28 2008

Thank you David for the input.

Another thing that would be interesting to see is the price range of items put for sale.
I am active in the stamp market which was booming during the first ebay years. Back than most listings were at the $1-$5 range. These listings were put mostly by collectors and not dealers. These collectors, I'm sure, put all their earnings back into the system, i.e. bought on ebay. The new fee structure makes it unprofitable to sell stamps for less than $10. It means it drives out the small timers out and reduces the amounts of money they will put back into ebay, when buying. I believe that the stamps market on ebay is doomed, and that soon we'll see only the leading dealers list high priced items which won't be sold as they used to some years ago.
So again - I believe that the real effect will be on the price structure of listings and there will see some bad bad things happen really soon.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: www.strikeBay.com

Mon Mar 3 16:43:38 2008

eBay has created ''dummy'' listings to make it look like they had a large amount of auctions listed during the strike. details are here: http://www.strikebay.com/forums/showthread.php?t=27

eBay was creating dummy accounts, making like 1000-30000 listings, and they were all fake, just to say that the boycott had no affect on them. that was false obviously....

if ebay had to go to this measure here to make their counts look on the up and up, obviously to the scared shareholders, what else are they altering? maybe the financial books? eBay = Enron. bottom line.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: bucketslogg

Mon Mar 3 17:19:55 2008

David:

I see that you and Ina complement each other well in intelligence and moral character.  A debt of gratitude to Auction Bytes for fighting the good fight... for not selling out.

The stats are good.  They will be telling, I feel, because people are maybe sensing ebay will not be a viable site for too much longer and are putting up the wares that may not have a market on an unproven site.  The stats will drop like a lead balloon in a couple weeks time.

I would be doing the same myself, but I am too hardheaded to give over a thin dime to those crums.  I don't know if there's any justice left anywhere on this earth, but, again, thanks for the assist.  It made the difference in being heard, from just being noise.  

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Patricia

Mon Mar 3 17:44:58 2008

All well and good.....BUT in light of the recent discovery of SDC fake auction test...er....or mistake.  We will never know for sure WHAT the correct count was.  I really do feel there was a dip in listings.  Far too many sellers were and still are very upset.  I honored the boycott - my customers even honored the boycott.  Everyone I know had zero listings by the evening of Feb. 18th.  I know, a tiny spot of sellers to be sure, but I believe them to be indicative of those sellers who did boycott.  I know the categories that I list in (arts) did dip and quite a bit at that because I kept track of them myself.  Under the circumstance, I'm afraid we'll just never know how deep the boycott ran.  Another is scheduled for May - perhaps that one will show up better....but I sure won't hold my breath.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: turkeyjackson

Mon Mar 3 17:54:42 2008

''On Jan 29th (a Saturday) listings on eBay stood around 12.9 million''

The 29th was not a Saturday. What day did you mean? I don't see any Saturday in medved that fits.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

This user has validated their user name. by: David Steiner

Mon Mar 3 18:06:05 2008

Denise,

There's no swipe at the boycotters in my post. On the contrary, I think they did a stellar job getting the attention of the media. This was by far the most publicized action by sellers that I can remember dating back to 1999.

Turkeyjackson,
You're correct. The data collected was from January 26th to March 1. I've edited the blog post to reflect the correct dates.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Joe

Mon Mar 3 18:43:02 2008

If you don't believe ebay is fudging the listing numbers, try this test...

Go to the categories page on ebay and select "Clothing". You will see that ebay states there are approximately 2,500,000 current listings. At 50 listings per page, this equates to roughly 49,000 pages of listings. 49,000 pages x 50 listings/page = 2,450,000 listings, right? However, all the pages after page 36,600 are blank. They have no listings on them. (Scroll to the bottom of the page and try to go to page 36,000, you'll see). This means approx. 12,400 pages of nonexistent listings. 12,400 pages with 50 items/page = 620,000 missing listings in this one category alone.

Where are they? Why are they being included in ebay's own category count? I have not checked any other categories, however the shopping.com listings were still showing up and being included in the count this morning in the consumer electronics category.

Something isn't right here.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Jeff

Mon Mar 3 20:27:44 2008

What isn't right is that if eBay IS fudging the numbers for Wall Street's benefit, that's called FRAUD. I find it highly doubtful that eBay executives want to end up in prison.

Oh sure, other company executives swindled stock holder and such. Yes, I know, Enron, Tyco, and so on. I just find it hard to stomach that it's a plot. Don't call me naive, just my opinion.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: horsemama

Mon Mar 3 22:06:25 2008

Nobody WANTS to go to jail.

That doesn't mean that greedy executives don't often do things that ought to put them there.

And, whether overall listings DROPPED or not is irrelevant.  If they went up anyway, all that means is that if eBay hadn't insulted and alienated THOUSANDS of sellers and buyers, those numbers would have been up a lot more.

So . . . what's your point?

The boycotters know they have put a dent in eBay profits.  I know because I have made six purchases from OTHER sites that I normally would have made on eBay.

AND, I've been paying with Google Checkout instead of Paypal whenever possible.

Don't tell me eBay didn't lose anything.


BOYCOTT VICTORIOUSLY . . .until they get IT.  

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: asimps

Tue Mar 4 01:28:55 2008

Well, whatever is going on in the categories or in eBay's executive offices, they filed a dismal report with the SEC on Friday acknowledging that tough times are ahead. They also acknowledged that the sellers' boycott and  future boycotts and/or defections have and will hurt:

''If these changes cause sellers to move their business away from our websites or otherwise fail to improve gross merchandise volume or the number of successful listings, our operating results and profitability will be harmed.''  

Things were already looking bad with increased competition from other sites, and the new policies are causing enough problems that shareholders are going to be in for some big disappointments.

I will be very disappointed if ebay doesn't change course and recant some of the policies that are causing its most vested supporters to bail out. A hallmark of good management is that it can admit mistakes and get things back on course. Lets see if the eBay suits can rise to the occasion.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: IRRITATE

Tue Mar 4 10:49:45 2008

Dave....Ina has the right idea to keep you off and away from blogging!!!

I get the impression that you feel triumphant with your so called unsupported facts; whereby trying to disprove the boycotts effectiveness regardless of what you are saying now!

Seems to me you shouldn't be the one criticizing  the author of the USA Today article. Maybe, you should have invested more time and thought before writing this blog and got your facts straight!

Or, do you like to add fuel to the sellers fire? Are you enjoying antagonizing the sellers that boycotted? Trying to show the media that the boycott was for naught?

I know you love making graphs. I am going to be highly skeptical with all other graphs you publish. I will have my doubts with their validity!

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: jsicolts

Tue Mar 4 10:53:49 2008

the boycott is working great. we are getting more sales from Alibris.com, Biblio.com even a few from the new, but we liked very much iOffer.com.
bye bye sleezebay.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Lyn

Tue Mar 4 11:53:06 2008

Well, David, maybe you should be looking at sell through instead of listing numbers. When I go just to one narrow category on ebay with which I am familiar (jewelry>vintage>fine>cameo), I see a disproportionately high number of relists right now of lower quality goods at lower starting prices than they had in the original listings.

The items that I have watched over the past few weeks of not buying and selling have sold for 25% to 75% of what they would normally sell for. If you take into account the hike in listing fees, the profit margin has dropped something like 35 to 50% for items in those categories.

Not much new happening on ebay (ho hum) and you can find the same stuff cheaper from the same sellers elsewhere now, so the total buys and the buys in traditional format are down. The fixed price sales are also down, but I believe they will hold a good chart line as seller and buyer desertion progresses.

Ebay moved to compete with Amazon and in doing so, killed off its best honest and conscientious sellers of unique items. Now it is just real trash in the listings, and higher priced to boot. When the relisting window ends and when ebay does actually stop padding the listings, I do believe you will see the listings numbers drop.

But for now, the more accurate number to watch is sell through. The slide is either due to inflation of listings or loss of customers, or both. Either way, sellers and buyers are going to be increasingly deserting with Best Match and feedback and BSR and all of the other features designed to funnel the buyers into buying what ebay wants them to buy, rather than ebay continuing to be a venue for sellers on a level playing field.

What point in selling anything there anymore? None. What point is there in a buyer going there, only to be told what to buy instead of having fun looking for those unique bargains and deals? None.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: joyce

Tue Mar 4 11:56:13 2008

The category counts are basically useless. The cufflink category has grossly inflated counts - there are anywhere from 1 to 6 items forwarded to the next page. No steady number but it adds up to more items and pages at the end. I have seen this in other categories so I have to assume it is done in all of them - therefore useless.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Frank

Tue Mar 4 14:25:43 2008

Most of the spectacular business failures (Enron, Worldcom) involved phantom income, sales and customer counts to hide the fact that a business is in decline and to prop up the stock prices until the big shots have a chance to bail out.  The same pattern is being played out here.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: skip

Tue Mar 4 16:27:26 2008

Glad to see you all put David Steiner in his place as far as ebay padding the numbers.

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: Arlen

Tue Mar 4 22:30:07 2008

Hi All,

I decided to see how effective the ebay boycott was on Disney overall categories and Disneyana Collectible category.  Here are my findings for active listings day by day just searching the word "Disney".....anyone see a pattern here?

2-17-08
121526 items found for: disney
Disneyana (40384)

2-18-08
(missed that day)

2-19-08
115133 items found for: disney
Disneyana (38982)

2-20-08
108729 items found for: disney
Disneyana (36993)

2-21-08
94096 items found for: disney
Disneyana (30798)

2-22-08
104894 items found for: disney
Disneyana (35018)

2-23-08
105674 items found for: disney
Disneyana (35478)


And check out eBay's overall performance during the boycott
http://www.psunite.com/auctionsitewatch.php/

Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future   Category Listing Numbers May hold Key to eBay's Future

by: help me out

Mon Mar 10 15:45:03 2008

Type "antique" into the title listing and then go to page 5200 of that listing.  You'll see page after page of old Harper magazine listings in 10 day auctions.  What are these?  Then go to page 8000 and you will see a string of "classified" ads on 15 day auctions.  What are these?  Auctions?  Then check out item# 180219805874 an antique store that pops up over and over in a 19 day auction.  Is any of this fishy?  Can anyone explain it.



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