Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Personal opinion

Just want to remind folks who read this blog. Any and all posts that I write about are completely my personal opinion and are not representative of eBay's view, opinion or perspective on any subject matter. Apologies for any confusion on this.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Call me the "Ro"ster

Reading The Alarm Clock this early morning and came across DFJ's investment in "Guidester". Please. For the love of the God. If you care about the physical wellbeing of random strangers... please stop with the 'X-sters'. It's like a punch line you've heard so often to the point you need to run out of a room like some deranged person at the start of the joke. I've taken a vow and now refuse to even go to a site with a "ster" at the end of it. Sorry Friendster, Jobster, Napster and Guidester. Why not call your company Web2OhStR? Now that would rock :D

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Netvibes is Tres Cool

I've mentioned Netvibes a few times in the past. Simply, I think this is a great indicator of the future of Internet usage. Word on the street is that the Netvibes' user base is in the several millions and per the graph from Alexaholic below, showing accelerating growth (over and above other webtop competitors like Pageflakes and Meebo).

Frankly, I still prefer my Bloglines account to access my content. As an RSS reader, Netvibes doesn't collapse the content well enough to aggregate more than a few feeds on the webtop. In addition, the feeds include the title but require a mouse over to see the content underneath (as opposed to a quick view of the content below the title). That said, the integration of web services from, eBay, Yahoo Mail and inclusion of web search are very compelling. As Netvibes continues to aggregate other web services and/or improve their RSS reader function (I have 49 different feeds on Bloglines), it won't take long for me to transition over completely.

Word of caution to any application or site that isn't investing in web services. Centralized access to your app via APIs will become a key competitive advantage (whether for you or for your competition is your call :)). Netvibes is showing a head of steam in this direction. Hopefully it's enough to become another viable starting point for Internet access...

eBay Sellers

Please excuse the lack of posts. I spent a week in Las Vegas at the eBay Developer Conference and eBay Live. There's a lot to be said for both.

One of the lasting impressions I got from speaking with developers and sellers alike last week is that eBay has a true closeknit seller community. It's easy to lose faith when eBay is continually referenced as fighting trench warfare with search engines and the like. Attending eBay Live reinforced the fact that the vast number of sellers on eBay have a very directed focus on this marketplace as the primary if not sole distribution channel for sales. While the same can't be said for eBay's very top sellers, many of which have gone multi-channel and are utilizing their own websites and tools like Adwords, this top group accounts for a very small number of overall sellers on the site (albeit a disproportionate amount of total sales). So long as eBay can continue driving value and demand, our eBay-centric seller community will continue to push supply as needed. It's a fantastic barrier to sell-side competition.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Social Networking Revenue

I found this news item on Yahoo! dropping MySpace publishers interesting. Looks like social networking ads are generating 1/10th the clickthrough rates vs normal contextual ads (1-2% clickthrough) and only $0.10 per CPM for MySpace due to massive oversupply of pages vs demand.

While the articles state that MySpace should focus on brands and businesses creating profiles, I don't think there's a ton of viability to that concept. It's fairly apparent that social networking users aren't appreciative of ads being part of the context of what they read (hence the ridiculously low clickthrough). If I were MySpace, I'd flip this on its head. While readers of blogs/profiles may have no interest in contextual ads, associating and tagging users based on what they write in their profiles and presenting them contextual content (including ads) could be more effective. The reason ads work on search engines is that they're viewed as a value-add for a specific keyword search a user performs. Many times, the ad itself is a more valuable link from a research perspective than the natural search results alone for a specific keyword.

In the case of social networking, the ads have little to no relevance to what's being searched (i.e. a user reads a personal profile or a friend's blog with no specific keyword or search in mind) As a result, contextual ad content which relates to written social-networking content has little to no value-add for the reader of said content. It would however relate to the writer.

Social-networking sites should move more aggressively in evolving the content editing pages of their sites (for profile and blog creators) into a personalized webpage experience (ala Goowy, Pageflakes and Netvibes). In this way, the MySpace's of the world could capture and monetize the interests of said user (tagging that user via their own written content) by presenting personalized, dynamic content related to the content creator. Adding ads at this point once again are a value-add since the ad is presented alongside content the user is actually interested in... (Take a hint here Rupert. Buy Netvibes, Pageflakes or create this capability on your own)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Techcrunch venting

For those of you who don't know Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, he is a leading influencer among technology-focused bloggers. His reviews of new online applications have become a a formal launching process for start-ups. TechCrunch has become hugely popular because Michael doesn't hold back on his opinions, whether its effusive praise or scathing critique. (It's gone both ways for eBay/Paypal/Skype on TechCrunch)

That being said, his latest rant on Google mirrors my personal opinion. At some point a company's success has to be measured beyond PR-heavy product launches, with minimal to incremental impact. Sometimes you have to wonder if having a great (if blindingly loyal) fanbase can sometimes be as misleading to an organization as it can be supportive.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Clickfraud and Customer Service

Interesting post from Robert Cringely on issues relating to clickfraud and customer service. There seems to be increasing volume of posts related to this issue, with Mark Cuban staking his point of view. I'm less concerned about clickfraud. Ultimately if its a real issue, advertisers will decrease their focus on Adwords and similar tools. Once (and if) things start going south, I expect the adword-centric platforms will respond accordingly. I do think, however, that Robert's note on customer service is dead-on.

In the absence of timely customer service, customers simply don't give you the benefit of the doubt. Looking back at my own start-up experience, customer support was ridiculously expensive (more from a headroom than a cash perspective). Almost always it required resources across the organization to address an issue, and more than half the times, the issue was customer-centric (i.e. not a site-wide or application-wide issue, but more a problem with a specific customer's environment). Regardless, our customers didn't really care if their hardware met our product requirements, or if the servers we shipped them were self-installed in closets that were reaching the core temperature of the sun. If we didn't respond to these issues, we lost that customer forever. As the COO at Cima Systems, I would spend half of my work week out at customer sites, tooling around with set-ups or underneath desks, rebooting and reformatting things (this was before the renaissance of web services) and generally giving customers greater confidence in our company. So long as we invested time here, even if there were breakdowns (environment, hardware, software issues) customers stayed on...

At eBay, we've built a significant resource with our Customer Support teams. They're given enough degrees of freedom and discretion to actually bring meaningful solutions to the table. This is an area eBay continues to build actively because we recognize that if we're not talking to our customers, they'll be talking about eBay without our point of view or guidance or they'll be talking with our competitors.

Clickfraud, while easily dismissed by the adword platform providers because customers can't quantify it, is still a very real issue to the customers who sense it's there. As the din regarding clickfraud goes beyond a few customers and bloggers, timely customer service and response will be the key to maintaining or losing advertisers in the long-run. And for some, this unfortunately is something that requires direct contact and can't be addressed algorithmically.

Friday, June 02, 2006

National Anthem

Funny as heck video clip... :)
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