Wednesday, April 16, 2008

eBay Making Cuts! Not Jobs, but Businesses!

With the first earnings call under the guidance of new eBay CEO John Donahoe now in the bag, I thought I would take a look at some recent eBay news that may signal some business changes coming down the pike.

It makes sense that a new management team would move aggressively to re-organize the business in their own image. It appears they are looking at each business and even individual categories within the marketplace business and making one of four assessments: (Some businesses may fall into multiple categories)

  • Grow it! - I don't see too many of eBay's businesses in this category except for PayPal and Skype. Skype is only included because if it doesn't grow substantially the only other option is to sell it.

    Kijiji and the classifieds business could certainly fall into this category, as would the Non-GMV advertising business (excluding

    StubHub should be in this category but I just don't see eBay expanding that business and they should be. Stubhub, is the best acquisition since PayPal.
  • Maintain it! - My guess is, we won't know which businesses or verticals will be left alone until all of them have been looked at, so the businesses and verticals to survive the re-org intact, may not be known for awhile.

    Some businesses and categories that should be fine are: StubHub, possibly and -- they are both low maintenance money makers. StumbleUpon could also fall into this category -- I don't see management spending the money to grow it.

    eBay Stores, Pro-Stores, Motors, Express and many of the categories within the Marketplace business could also be left alone. Some categories are doing just fine within or it just wouldn't make any sense to spend the money on them e.g. Express.

    Also, Microplace and Giving Works should continue as they have been.
  • Reorganise It! - The media category, was the first category to get this treatment and I'm sure the changes there are not complete. I believe, managers are doing an assessment of every category available in the Marketplace business; as well as every business in the entire company.

    Look for big changes at as they try to stoke the fire there. Though a possible add slowdown may add to slowing growth at SDC.
  • Sell It! or Shut It! - I believe Skype will actually be sold before the end of the year. It is a fast growing business that is much better suited as part of another company, IMO.

    Update: Looks like I may be right about this one.

    Digital Downloads and Live Auctions were categories that were just too much trouble for what they were worth so management said b'bye. Perhaps other categories will get the axe as well.

One business that is currently in limbo is the Auction biz.

eBay CFO, Bob Swan said in a recent interview with eBay Blogger Richard Brewer-Hay "we do see that fixed price continues to grow faster than our auction-based platform"

So, if fixed price is outpacing auctions where does that leave the auction biz? There's an old saying "if you don't grow, you die". Is this what will happen to Auctions at eBay?

It is going to be a very interesting year and I'm sure we will see movement of some of these eBay categories and businesses into different categories, from where I placed them. It would be my preference that many of them move into the Grow It! category.

Perhaps we should create a "dead pool" for the next eBay business or category to get the axe.

Just my 12%


Tony P. said...

Believe it or Not(!) I was a member of AOL until 2005. I had joined back in '94 or 95 - I forget when - it was before their software even had a version number. From about '98 onward, I had used a regular ISP and left the AOL usage to my Better Half.

After getting DSL (and a router), I was set to bring my wife into the 21st century, so I logged into AOL to cancel my account. Oh My Gawd! A whole chit-load of popups and placed Ads appeared all over the screen. I asked her how long it had been like that, etc. I couldn't believe all of the crap they heaped upon their users - paid users, at that!

As many peeps know, I couldn't cancel Online; I had to make a phone call. The Rep was very pushy, but I was raised by wolves, so he didn't stand a chance. The little p__k hung up on me (good CS!). The one thing I took away from our 'conversation' was that AOL had no idea they were doing anything wrong.

That long-winded story just to get here: the Fun was removed from ebay, by ebay. one little piece at a time. every glitchancement. every bot reply. every blind-eye towards fraud. every cookie-cutter Brown Bag Lunch. every fee increase. every productive improvement, to later monetize. every change, constantly. every opinion, ignored. every utterance of That's Unfortunate. every Rebalance. every Lie.

If you ask them, I bet they'll say they have no idea they did anything wrong. Now, the FP market is outstripping the Auction market. Part of the reason is undoubtedly, simply, the current buying trend. But we all know that's not the entire reason. Somebody killed the Fun.

Their next step is to lament the *unexplainable* slow death of Auctions and begin the process of removing them from the site.

permacrisis said...

Yup. Stephanie Tilenius mentioned an "unrecognizable" ebay by this time next year and gutting auctions out of ebay would certainly fit the bill.