I didn't see you at eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) annual expo this summer.

Oh, I forgot. June came and went with nary a trace of eBay Live, because the leading auction site decided to cancel the annual fete.

It's just as well. The event may have been widely popular -- attracting roughly 10,000 guests willing to fork over $100 for tickets last year -- but this humbling economy isn't ripe for lavish blowouts.

eBay's new outreach efforts will instead celebrate eBay's 15th anniversary next year by hosting a series of smaller events around the country. "eBay: On Location" will kick off in Orlando, Fla., in February, and will wrap up in the company's home base of San Jose, Calif. Several cities will be added along the way.

That's the right approach. eBay has tried to reach out to the seller base it has alienated in recent years. The 1990s were easy for the world's leading online marketplace operator. When giants including Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) launched rival auction sites, eBay easily vanquished the competition, despite its stiffer fees.

But things haven't been as easy on this side of the millennium. The proliferation of Craigslist and other sites offering free classifieds has eaten into eBay's market. For active sellers, Yahoo!, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) offer cost-effective, text-based ads that can be targeted perfectly through search-query keywords.

The auctioneer has counterattacked with its own classified sites, but that's not going to be enough.

eBay needs to mend fences, and that appears to be what it's doing right now. It's giving casual sellers a reason to return, by offering five listings a month with no insertion fees. It will have to go further to smooth over jaded power sellers, but there is hope on that front: Two analysts were upbeat about eBay's flagship marketplace business last week.

Mending fences in 2009. The mother of all traveling road shows in 2010. Who needs eBay Live when the auctioneer would rather be alive?

More items in the eBay bid basket:

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Amazon.com and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Microsoft and  eBay are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a satisfied eBay user, with 177 positive feedbacks to show for it. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story and is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.