eBay Live is going, going, gone


EBay live is dead.

News came down from eBay that the annual pow-wow of the faithful, eBay Live, held in a different city each year, is being scrapped for smaller gatherings in different cities through out the year.

While the announcement isn’t going to affect eBay sellers in a significant way, it bears mentioning because it serves as a stark example of the new direction the company is taking — and how much things have changed since the first conferences.

The first eBay Live events were awash with eBay fanatics sporting psychedelic wigs, true evangelists who couldn’t believe their good fortune — many quit their day jobs for a life of selling items they were passionate about, collectibles and so on, or just found a successful niche to tap into and were excited to be self-employed.

But the last two eBay Live events, in Chicago in 2008 and in Boston in 2007, were tame in comparison to the earlier hey-days. Attendance and exhibitor participation were both dwindling.

And instead of a buzzing, good-time, networking bash, those conferences were mainly characterized by distress. Disgruntled sellers were in search of answers and information. Many were irate, lots were simply overwhelmed, but they were all reeling from a flurry of policy changes they found hard to incorporate into the day-to-day tasks of running their businesses.

I’m not against change, and I realize that the company couldn’t possibly sustain such a happy fan base for years on end. Yet the current make-over from an affordable online flea market to digital liquidator, which certainly makes sense from a business perspective, rings hollow in comparison to the grassroots days of eBay.

Ina Steiner, eBay expert and publisher of AuctionBytes, told me, “I think that not only does the current management want to slash costs where ever possible, I think they just don’t see the value in the
large community gatherings, and that’s a sad reflection on the direction eBay has taken. Over the past 18 months, eBay has eliminated eBay University, fired all the ‘pinks,’ long-time employees who interacted with users on the discussion board, eliminated television advertising and is moving toward attracting the
same retailers and products you can find on other sites. Killing off the annual eBay Live user conference is just one more casualty in the move toward the new eBay.’

“I remember a few years ago when then-CEO Meg Whitman said that integrating Store inventory into the core site had overwhelmed the marketplace with identical, often poorly-priced items that ‘diluted
the magic of the eBay experience.’ Yet that is the very direction eBay has been taking, and whether the current CEO John Donahoe can come up with new magic to bring shoppers in the door remains to be seen –so far, traffic has been declining.”

In the [blog post](http://www2.ebay.com/aw/core/200907.shtml#2009-07-13102536) announcing the end of eBay Live, Lorrie Norrington, marketplace president, says a 15th anniversary party is planned for 2010 in eBay’s hometown, San Jose, “to celebrate everything we’ve accomplished together.”

Here’s hoping sellers show up for the celebration.

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