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Interesting Times @ eBay For Digital Publishers

Marketing your offerings using eBay has been, for a long time, a very viable option for digital publishers… until now.

You see, eBay has decided that goods that can be digitally delivered can no longer be offered for sale through its auction listings. Instead, they now can only be listed under the very generic “Everything Else/Information Products” Classified Ads category.

And while some sellers think they aren’t affected because they don’t tick the “digital delivery” box on their listing, the key words are items that “can be” delivered digitally.

In effect, that means lots of products that “can be” digitally delivered are not going to be available in the auction listings any more, including (according to this ebay forum post) the following items:

  • Ebooks
  • Domain names
  • Websites
  • Graphics
  • Ebay auction templates
  • Spreadsheets
  • Digital Software
  • Powerpoint, Excel & Word Templates
  • Digital Photos
  • Digital Embrodery
  • Digital Patterns
  • Digital Printables
  • Advertising
  • Audio books
  • Digital music downloads
  • Digital Service Manuals — cars, machines, etc
  • Digital Delivered Business cards
  • Machine Building Blueprints
  • Architectural designs
  • Wholesale Lists
  • Digital Scrapbook Pages
  • Video Tutorials
  • Website Scripts
  • Plans – farm equipment
  • Plans – Kids stuff – ie puppet theaters, swings playhouses
  • Plans -model making, boat building
  • Home repair
  • Furniture building
  • Craft instructions – not patterns- such as “how to mosaic” “Pottery”
  • Tattoo Flash
  • Prepaid cellular phone cards
  • Coupon codes (, etc)
  • Digi Frames
  • Euro Frames
  • Blings / Sparkles
  • Logos / Siggys
  • Me Pages
  • Store Fronts
  • Ebay User Tools
  • Ticketfast Tickets or other PDF style concert and event tickets

Note that this list is just a “suggestion” from the forum participants of products which MIGHT be affected by this policy change (not yet confirmed by eBay).

It seems the the biggest digital auction site on the web wants the sellers of digital items to go back to delivering things by snail mail – which will not only increase the price of the items for cutomers to cover CD’s and p&h etc, but will put many long term, legitimate eBay sellers out of business unless they can work out how to adapt to this change.

Whether that means converting to another online auction web site, or offering a “hard-copy” on CD, or something else… only time will tell.

But from now on, if you want to offer a digitally downloaded product on eBay, then you MUST use the “classified” ads format at $9.95 a month. These are regarded by eBay as a lead generation tool as people go to your web site and through your payment processor – and that means they are no longer eBay’s responsibility once they leave their site.

eBay’s official announcement on March 24 claims that the change has been brought about through manipulation of their feedback system to artificially boost the status of sellers.

Me-thinks there might have been a major “Cease and Desist” digital copyright infringement notice served on eBay by one of the big “real world” publishers and this is their knee-jerk reaction to fixing the “problem”.

Whatever the real reason, if you include eBay in your online marketing business model, it’s time to rethink how to use it more effectively so that such sudden policy changes don’t impact on you too much!

And one of the most effective ways of responding to change enforced upon you, is to make sure you OWN your customers – i.e. build a $%%^@#$%^@# list! At least you can tell them what is happening if you are forced to move elsewhere.

Thanks to Planet SMS Blog for referring me to this story.


4 Responses to “Interesting Times @ eBay For Digital Publishers”

  1. Miltski on March 28th, 2008 7:13 am

    Excellent post Stephen, and what a mega list of items. I had just got into selling digital items on eBay, and I’d just got the hang of it then eBay pull the rug from underneath me.
    But I do feel for the eBay digital item big boys (PlanetSMS, Ebook-Cavern,etc) who are trying to stay positive and come out on top.

  2. Stephen Spry on March 29th, 2008 9:54 pm

    And now for some sort of clarification from eBay…

    As well as offering more explanation of the “feedback” situation, that link also explains custom services “where the buyer and seller work collaboratively to develop a custom designed website, will be treated as a service, like they are today” and can stay as auction or fixed price listings.

    There’s also a strong WARNING about NOT offering “the buyer the option of receiving the content via physical media or via digital delivery or electronic transfer” and “Any product listing for downloadable digital items that implies or suggests that the item can be received electronically will be a violation.”

    However, if you take another look at the “list” above… I’m still not too sure which items would be allowed (or not) under the new policy… I suppose it all depends on the degree of “customisation” you do with the buyer.

  3. Stephen Spry on March 31st, 2008 3:30 pm

    John Thornhill from Planet SMS has issued a new report that’s well worth getting hold off.

    Full details here.

  4. Miltski on April 7th, 2008 5:48 pm

    The Story continues to unfold….. More and more options appear for digital sellers everyday. I’ve just written a post about some of the new alternatives available to digital sellers.

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