Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Judge Judy Takes on eBay Scammer

I came across a link to this clip on the Auctionbytes blog and I had to post it here. eBay should send all scammers to be publicly humiliated on the Judge Judy Show. What was the seller thinking to agree to settle this dispute on TV rather than just give the money back. Wow!

Monday, February 26, 2007

In a Perfect World!

Since this blog is called My Blog Utopia I thought I would add a new regular post called “In a Perfect World”. I was going to use “Can’t We All Just Get Along” from famed philosopher Rodney King but I like “Perfect World” better because it’s another way of saying Utopia.

So, this week’s post is again about the online payment wars – you might say I’m obsessed with this topic – “In a Perfect World” eBay’s PayPal, Microsoft’s future micro-payment service, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc. could all be wrapped into one simple payment system called Google Checkout. This would allow the world’s shoppers and vendors to simplify their checkout system and make everything right with the world. It is called Co-opetition and could happen "In a Perfect World".

Of course, we all know this ain’t going to happen but it would be nice if at least a couple of them could get together. Google’s Checkout needs the account functionality of PayPal and the promise of Micro-payments from Microsoft, so let’s all stop fighting and put this system in place. Of course poor old Amazon would be left out in the cold unless they could come up with a 1-Click e-wallet like Google Checkout – I guy can dream can’t he?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What will MySpace 2.0 Look Like?

The Internet may be crossing over into Web 3.0 soon but MySpace is still in version 1.0. So, what do you think MySpace 2.0 will look like?

Here's what I think: (Some of this is wishful thinking)
  • MySpace 2.0 will no longer be considered the Teen Hang-out exclusively! A growing number of older members will begin to use the platform (this is already happening). This may cause the fickle Teen set to flee to another hot site so MySpace will need to find ways to keep them. My suggestion! Let them make some money. They already refer, suggest and reccomend products, bands, songs, etc for free. Why not let them get paid to do that.

  • MySpace will become an ecommerce site allowing trading between members. This system will be facilitated by eBay, Google or a system developed by MySpace. My suggestion is the creation of a separate site called MySpace Shops that links to each sellers profile. If FIM ends up working with eBay the solution would be to add a shopping cart to eBay's Stores platform and port that over to a new site. Shazam! You now have MySpace Shops. This of course would benefit eBay Store Sellers greatly. I don't like the idea of expanding eBay's grip on ecommerce and would much prefer that MySpace develop its own platform to compete but I am realistic. If FIM doesn't want to develop its own system I would hope that Google would get serious about developing its own Stores platform.

  • PayPal will most likely become the payment method of choice unless Google checkout can add account functionality.

  • MySpace will start to offer Pro versions of their profiles for members who want to expand their MySpace presence. The pro versions will include multiple pages and allow members to make money through MySpace’s new affiliate, advertising and Shops offerings.

Well, there are a couple of my ideas. What do you think MySpace 2.0 will look like?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What will Web 3.0 Look Like!

Web 1.0 began in 1995 and brought us Internet giants like Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, and later Google --it also brought us the "Bubble"-- The key drivers of Web 1.0 were search and eCommerce. Of course it wasn't called Web 1.0 until after the term Web 2.0 was coined in 2004 by Tim O' Reilly. According to Wikipedia "Web 2.0, a phrase coined by O'Reilly Media in 2004,[1] refers to a perceived or proposed second generation of Web-based services—such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies—that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users."

The term's meaning and origination are under debate but the fact that it became part of the Internet Lexicon is not. Many peg the beginning of Web 2.0 with the launch of MySpace in 2003 but I would contend that the bridge from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 was Google's Adwords program which was launched in 2000 and became the defacto standard for paid search, though GoTo.com developed the idea in 1998, Google was the driving force behind the monetization of search.

So, when will Web 3.0 begin and what will it look like? This is what I enjoy about blogging I can speculate and pontificate and if I'm right I become part of history, like Mr O'Reilly, if I'm wrong nobody will remember. I believe we are at the crossroads of the transition to Web 3.0 which will be dominated by digital entertainment, micro payments, and a maximization of "The Long Tail". When web historians look back at the beginning of Web 3.0 I believe they will identify Microsoft's Micro payment system as the Bridge to Web 3.0 (that is if they can actually implement it.) Micro payments will facilitate monetizing those Web 2.0 applications that we love so much and open the doors to completely new business models, expanding our use of digital entertainment and allowing companies to maximize the "Long Tail". What will Web 3.0 look like? Sramana Mitra has this to say:

"Personalization has remained limited to some unsatisfactory efforts by the MyYahoo team, their primary disadvantage being the lack of a starting Context. More recently, Netvibes has raised a lot of buzz, but also lacks the same organizing principle: Context.

In Web 3.0, I predict, we are going to start seeing roll-ups. We will see a trunk that emerges from the Context, be it film (Netflix), music (iTunes), cooking / food, working women, single parents, … and assembles the Web 3.0 formula that addresses the whole set of needs of a consumer in that Context.

-I am a petite woman, dark skinned, dark haired, brown eyed. I have a distinct personal style, and only certain designers resonate with it (Context).
-I want my personal
SAKS Fifth Avenue which carries clothes by those designers, in my size (Commerce).
-I want my personal
Vogue, which covers articles about that Style, those Designers, and other emerging ones like them (Content).
-I want to exchange notes with others of my size-shape-style-psychographic and discover what else looks good. I also want the recommendation system tell me what they’re buying (Community).

-There’s also some basic principles of what looks good based on skin tone, body shape, hair color, eye color … I want the search engine to be able to filter and match based on an algorithm that builds in this knowledge base (Personalization, Vertical Search).
Now, imagine the same for a short, fat man, who doesn’t really have a sense of what to wear. And he doesn’t have a wife or a girl-friend. Before Web 3.0, he could go to the personal shopper at Nordstrom.

With Web 3.0, the internet will be his Personal Shopper."

I do believe personalization will be a major element of Web 3.0, as well as digital entertainment, and vertical search but the driving force behind the transition to Web 3.0 will be Micro payments and I can see three companies jockeying for postion there. (Microsoft, Google and eBay's PayPal).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Announcing My New Blog -- The Seller Evangelist!

Today, I launched my new blog focusing on the online seller: The Seller Evangelist! With The Seller Evangelist I will focus on issues that affect the online seller in today’s fast paced ecommerce world. Why another blog? I felt that My Blog Utopia was becoming more of a commentary on Web 2.0, Social Networking and the issues facing the big Internet companies like Amazon, Google, eBay, MySpace, etc. and I wanted to focus on the issues facing the online seller. My passion is helping sellers make the best of their online businesses and hopefully discussing the positives as well as the negatives of my selling experience with Glacier Bay DVD will be of some benefit.

Whether you are a hobby seller, part-time seller, power seller or even an enterprise business. I hope the Seller Evangelist will be of benefit to you. I will discuss and analyze issues you face in your business on a daily basis and guarantee it will not always be about eBay (though my first 2 articles are).

If you are dealing with specific issues that you would like me to touch on please email me and I will do my best to post on those issues.

With My Blog Utopia I will continue discuss the world of ecommerce, social networking, Web 2.0, etc. So keep reading and I also invite you to visit me at The Digital Napkin my blog about ideas.

Markdown Manager Technical Issues!

As I wrote in my AuctionBytes article : eBay's Store Markdown Manager is an amazing and potentially valuable tool but there are still some technical problems with the application so be cautious in how you implement it. Spend time working on your Markdown Strategy while doing small tests to get a feel for how best to use the tool.

The Stores Discussion board has several threads devoted to discussing the technical problems sellers are experiencing so make sure and read what they are saying. I believe these problems are sporadic and that eBay is working diligently to fix them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

eBay Sellers! Display your Products on this Blog!

I came across a great little widget for eBay sellers recently and I've added it to the bottom of my blog. It allows sellers to showcase their eBay product on MySpace, Friendster and other websites and blogs. The nice part -- you can add your Store Referal id and get 75% off of your FVF from all purchases made through the showcase. Oh, the tool is also free and available at Cooqy.com . You can also get the widget for your About Me Page and your eBay Store for a very reasonable fee.

If you would like your store items to be displayed on my blog please email me and I will add them for one month at a time. I have room for 7 more stores and November and December are already booked. I don't charge anything to post them here so hurry before all the slots are filled.

Also, I have the widget on my MySpace profile and on several other blogs (The Seller Evangelist, The Digital Napkin and The Single Dad) so if you act fast you can get listed on everything.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Question! Do You Still Like Selling on eBay?

This morning, I came across a thread on the eBay Stores Discussion board entitled: Is there anyone here who still likes selling on ebay? I was pleased to see some of the answers. It is apparent that many sellers have moved from the "I Love to Sell on eBay" camp to the "I Can still Make a Little Money" camp but over all it looks like Sellers still like it.

Here is one post I really enjoyed:

bribaiki (851 ) View Listings Report Feb-15-07 08:02 PST 43 of 43
I Love selling as well!

I love the people I come into contact with here whether it be my buyers, sellers or people on the boards...I look forward to it everyday

I'm a stay at mom to 3 children, and hubby works crazy hours, so it really works for me. No need to find daycare or figure out who will stay home with the children if they are sick from school, my kids all play sports, so it allows me to be active in that and not have to worry who will bring them to their games or practices...whatever it may be. I used to work in a field that "never closes" and so does my hubby...so holidays...that could get tough, can't leave the little ones home alone on x-mas.

It also gives me the opportunity to actually sell things that I love to make and do all the time anyway! I love crafting, always have...but gee, how much of it can I have hanging around the house LOL!

And best of all...I pretty much do what I love, being with my family, making my widgets, coming in contact with wonderful people from all over and making some extra money all at the same time! Can't beat it.

I don't expect to get rich or anything, but overall, I do better here than I would working outside the home "part-time"...we've tried that route as well... lol .

So despite the certain negative aspects that we all know of and don't particularly love, (but then again, no matter what you do or where you work, there are always some negative aspects in any job...)

I still love selling here.

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BuySafe Sues eBay Over Trademark Infringement!

In today's Auctionbytes Newsletter Ina Steiner reports that "BuySafe filed a lawsuit against eBay in U.S. District Court for trademark infringement on November 9, 2006. The dispute centers on eBay's new "Buy safely" section on the Item page and whether the term causes shoppers to confuse the section with the BuySafe service, which guarantees BuySafe-bonded items for up to $25,000 and displays "BuySafe seals" on eBay Item pages."

While I don't believe the suit will actually accomplish much, eBay has been sued many times over the years and rarely loses; I do applaud BuySafe for vigorously defending their trademark. At some point one of theses suits is going to stick and eBay will be forced to play fair rather than use the power of their monopoly.

Click Here for Resources on Online Fraud.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

EBay to Boost Yahoo ads Despite Fears

It looks like eBay will be expanding their Yahoo paid search deal to include regular search items. In fact I recently came across a search that had ample product on eBay as well as 5 paid search links to sellers off ebay. According to CFO Bob Swan the "The online auctioneer has found few conflicts between these ads and traffic to existing sellers" Swan was speaking at a Merrill Lynch investor conference in New York. Here is the story from Reuters.

When eBay announced in the summer of 2006 that they would be serving up Yahoo paid search ad's with null searchs it caused quite a stir among sellers. Sellers aren't even allowed to link to their own websites from their "paid" listings why should ebay link off the site to other vendors. Based on eBay's track record, be prepeared to see Yahoo paid search on a every search served up on eBay.com

Now, let us think logically for one moment about the effect on eBay sellers. Mr Swan states eBay "has found few conflicts between these ads and traffic to existing sellers" First he did not say "no conflicts" so obviously there have been a measurable amount of problems. The only way for these links to have an impact on a seller is for a buyer to click on them and leave the site. So if they are at the bottom of searchs the likelyhood of a customer clicking on them is limited but if eBay was not getting click thrus they would not be expanding the program. Therefore, buyers are clicking thru and leaving the site. Maybe this doesn't affect current sales for sellers but it does put pressure on sales growth therefore impacting their upside.

My suggestion! If you currently have an off eBay website do some keyword research on eBay and develop a Yahoo Paid Search campaign. You only pay if a customer clicks thru and if you can't sell them on eBay you might as well get them at your webstore.

Just my 5 Cents! - Click Here for Some Great Resources on Online Advertising

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Links of the Day!

Updating a blog on a daily basis can occasionally be a chore. Sometimes there are days when I can't find much to comment on or there is possibly an interesting story but I have nothing interesting to add to it. It’s on those days that I rely heavily on my Links of the Day.

Each day, as I drink my morning coffee, I surf the web for interesting articles, stories or news events that might be of interest to my readers. I pick the best 5 or 6 links and place them in the right sidebar of the blog under Links of the Day! This gives my readers fresh information on a daily basis even if I don’t have much to say. Like today!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Microsoft’s Micro-Payment System May Save Web 2.0

With the announcement last week that Microsoft is working on a micro-payment system for the web, it occurred to me that this might be the application that saves Web 2.0. One of the biggest problems facing Web 2.0 startups today is monetizing their services. Presently the best way to do this is to offer your applications or access to your website for free and then sell advertising to generate revenue, but with so many companies chasing the same revenue stream it is becoming even more difficult to make this work.

I thought about this while I drove 2 miles (round trip) to buy my daily cup of coffee; sure I could save money and make coffee at home but I have developed a routine that costs me roughly .32 cents a day in gasoline and $1.39 a day for coffee (I don’t buy Starbucks or it would be $4 a day for coffee) I’m sure if I analyzed my daily spending I would see many small transactions each day. When I look at how much my daily coffee cost me each month I’m amazed; I spend $51 a month because I’m too lazy to make my own coffee at home.

Now, lets look at Widget Makers, one category of Web 2.0 companies that are looking for a way to make money, these companies develop neat little apps for MySpace users, bloggers and website developers and most are giving away their stuff in the hope that they can generate enough user adoption to monetize the app with advertising and make some money; unfortunately most are struggling and coming to the end of their VC money. I don’t believe many of their users would be willing to pay $10 a month for these widgets but I can say with certainty a great many would be willing to pay from $1 to $5 each month. I can point out at least 2 that I would be willing to pay $2.50 a month for -- my Dizzler music player (I would pay for right now but I don’t have to) and the Blidget maker from WidgetBox is another. Check the sidebar for my Digital Napkin Blidget.

The payment systems we have in use today (Visa, Master Card, and PayPal, etc.) all charge a gateway transaction fee of from .20 cents to .30 a transaction in addition to a percentage of the value of the sale (from 1.5% to 2.9%). This makes a $1 payment very unattractive when just processing the transaction can cost up to 33 percent of the total. Enter Microsoft and their micro-payments where they remove the gateway fee and can work with a much more reasonable percentage of the total sale. Now Widget makers can charge small amounts and monetize their applications.

If you need an example of the validity of micro-payments, all you have to do is looks at Itunes. They only charge .99 cents for a song but users have downloaded over 1 billion so far. It is clear that micro-payments will bring hope to Web 2.0 companies the world over.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Today's Stories:

There is a lot of action today. Lots of news! So, instead of retreading what others are saying I'll just gather their links here.

eBay and MySpace do the Dance!

It's a funny thing about timing. Last month I wrote a post on my blog, The Digital Napkin, about how to monetize MySpace and then yesterday I expanded on that idea with an article on Associated Content on the need for MySpace to create a store platform similar to eBay and Shazam! Now, the two companies are in talks about working together. I wish I could say they got the idea from me but I'm sure these talks have been in the works for a while. It does point out though, that I do know what I'm talking about.

Needless to say, this may be a nice turn of events for eBay store sellers if they can get some additional exposure for their product on their MySpace profiles. Hopefully it will be a robust solution. It also points out that eBay's MyWorld, Wiki's and Blogs must really not be doing the job eBay had hoped.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Overstock.com Announces Q4 Earnings!

I guess "Earnings" is not an accurate term since Overstock had a net loss of $96.9 million in 2006. In my view 2007 will be the crucial year for CEO Patrick Byrne and Overstock.com. How long will investors stand behind the company?

You can get the Conference Call transcript at Seeking Alpha

PS. It looks like they have turned the Auctions Tab around as it is showing a profit for the first time ever according to the AuctionBytes article.

It's Been a Slow News Day!

My morning routine usually involves coffee and a glance at my Google Reader to see if any of my favorite sites/blogs have anything interesting to discuss. I check email for reports from my stock analyst friends and I surf the web for any interesting tidbits. It is a rare day when I can't find anything I'm interested in writing about. Today, I'm really digging deep. I went to the eBay Stores Discussion board to see what sellers are saying and came across an interesting item.

eBay often highlights sellers in their Seller Central section of the site. It’s a nice tool for promoting sellers. Today though according to a tip from eBay user bangkokbint eBay is profiling a seller who hasn’t been on the site since the store fee increases were announced in August. The seller is greatbuybooks a power seller with over 143,000 positive feedback but has not sold an item on either eBay or Half.com since July of 2006. Now what could possibly be the benefit of promoting a seller that doesn’t actually sell on eBay any longer? Take a look at the profile and then the feedback; somebody at eBay is asleep at the wheel.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Music While you Browse

If you would like to listen to music while you browse the blog, please use the Dizzler player at the bottom of the blog, underneath the Product Showcase. I've created a playlist of some of my favorite tunes so select RKSmythe's Playlist to play one you might like. If you don't like my selection you can search the web for your favorite tunes. Try it out! I'm still trying to figure out the best way to display this on the site.