Things are really starting to move at eBay
An entry in eBay's corporate blog last week indicated that the site is now encouraging sellers to link to videos that showcase their wares. Auctioneers can only go through five of the biggest video-sharing sites -- Google
OK, so maybe it's a bit of a surprise to see that Yahoo!
Still, it could be a revolutionary step for the site. The ability to see items in action -- assuming that the seller has the time to make a clip in the first place -- is far better than text descriptions and the occasional snapshot or two.
However, like any true revolution, this isn't a battle that can be won overnight.
Hitting the pause button
eBay thought this through. It contacted a few eBay members who were handy with camcorders, webcams, and video-editing software packages to showcase six different items on the site. OK, so maybe eBay fibbed as to how dedicated these aspiring filmmakers are to the eBay cause -- half of the listings are from sellers who have zero feedback.
However, you can follow the blog entry to check out the six listings. Some of them are pretty amusing, like the guy trying to sell his acoustic guitar in a highly unorthodox way. He strums along as he brushes his teeth on the guitar neck, makes out with the tuning keys, and even plays a few chords while he's on the toilet. Other ads feature stop-motion prowess in pitching a bike, Lego figures, and a 1996 Saturn.
The clips are slick, as expected. The members all chose to host their videos on YouTube, a good move since it may bring in auction-listing traffic through folks who stumble on the videos first.
But there's a rub, my friend. The six auctions have been running for nearly a week, set to end between today and Thursday. Despite eBay's promotion and the viral allure of some of the clips, the bidding battles just aren't taking place. Let's check into the six auctions, as of last night.
- The humiliated Martin acoustic guitar has just the opening $800 bid.
- The 1996 Saturn, star of its slick stop-action clip, hasn't received a single offer despite its reasonable $999 opening bid.
- A copy-room stapler with a compelling back story has been bid up to only $11.
- The vintage Lego figures have had enough activity to take the bidding up to $45, but the listing's reserve price has not been reached.
- A loaded Apple G4 is fetching just $84.50.
- A Surly Steamroller track bike has failed to nab its $300 start price, perhaps because the Brooklyn-housed bicycle must be picked up locally.
Thinking outside the screening room
Encouraging clips to promote eBay auctions may be a new strategy at eBay, but it isn't an original move. Intuitive YouTube users are already using video to direct traffic to their listings.
I profiled Val's Art Diary last year. The woman behind it is an oil painter who works her craft on canvas, documenting the artistic process with a camcorder along the way. She then auctions off the paintings on eBay. The promotional video diary clips are available through Apple's iTunes and her own website, but it was only after she was featured on YouTube that her cottage industry really took off.
The entrepreneurial spirit is starting to creep into the seemingly noncommercial YouTube site. Someone who was featured after demonstrating a self-stirring coffee mug quickly edited the video description to include a commissionable link to where the mug can be purchased.
Most people don't see YouTube that way. The legitimate video resumes aren't getting the kind of page views that the ridiculous, over-the-top ones are garnering. Clips of cars for sale will never draw in users the way fender-benders do. That's just human nature, but I still think that more and more people will begin tapping into the free multimedia promotion that is available through sites like YouTube.
What is getting in the way right now? A big factor may be a lack of education when it comes to shooting and editing videos. The learning curve isn't all that steep. A Windows-powered PC has the free Movie Maker editing application, and Apple users have access to even better editing software packages.
For investors, this trend will open up portfolio opportunities. Last week, I singled out stocks like Logitech
So who cares if eBay's first public push in encouraging moving pictures within its listings is off to a slow start? I get the feeling the environment will be far kinder on that front in the coming months and years.
The changes will even leave a mark here in Fooldom. I have no idea how many of you are working on entries for our 27-second stock video competition, though I get the feeling that the playing field will be a lot more crowded if we should repeat the contest next year.
You don't stand still. It should follow that your eBay-listing, stock-buying self shouldn't stand still, either.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does have a webcam, and he isn't afraid to use it. He just doesn't have anything to sell at the moment. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.