|Sat Feb 18 2012 17:24:41|
eBay Auction Counts: The Lost Listings
By: David Steiner
We received quite a few emails in the past several hours referencing a thread on eBay discussing eBay's falling listing counts over the past several days - down from roughly 141 million listings to about 70 million listings. First off, the listings haven't dropped. They're still there, they just aren't being counted properly by the auction tracking sites that people are looking at. Of course, it's not really the fault of these sites, since eBay isn't counting them properly either.
Here's a quick primer in how these auction counters work. With a few minor variations, sites like Medved, PSU and AuctionNews.org key off of this page on eBay: http://listings.ebay.com
You'll notice the top level categories, with secondary categories underneath. All of them display the number of listings in parentheses to the right. For example, at 4:30pm ET, the Antiques category showed 396,333 listings. That total is the sum of all of the subcategories under Antiques. Auction counters scrape this page periodically, add up all of the top level categories, and plot them on a graph on their sites. Right now, the three tracking sites are showing a precipitous listings drop beginning February 12th. So where did those listings go?
In this case, eBay has broken their own page, because none of the numbers displayed on http://listings.ebay.com are correct. At roughly 4:30pm ET, I added up all of the top level categories and the count came to 67,243,754. If you look at, for example, Books & Manuscripts, under the Antiques category, you will see roughly 10,000 listings (10,079 at 4:30). But if you click on the link for Books & Manuscripts, you will find over 25,400 listings. That's a difference of 15k listings and explains why the category counts on http://listings.ebay.com are not showing - the top level categories are using secondary category counts that are wrong.
Try that for every subcategory, and you'll see the same phenomenon. More than half of the search results are not displaying on the main listings directory page. Those listings really are there (for those of you with a free weekend, be my guest adding them up) - so why aren't they showing?
Well, list-counting sites are great for watching long-term trends on eBay, but unfortunately, when eBay is messing around with their site (and there is a seller release coming up soon) outside programs tend to break. eBay has been known to 'break' certain areas of their site on purpose, especially when it can "ball up" services that are scraping eBay's site - a practice eBay frowns upon.
Chances are, the listings page will get fixed at some point, and all of the auction trackers will pop back up over 140 million listings. Just don't count on it getting fixed on a weekend.