Thursday, May 30, 2013

Esta Semana en Tecnología, de Bloomberg BusinessWeek

EBay headquarters in San Jose

EBay headquarters in San Jose


An Auction? Most EBay Users Don't Have Time for That

By   May 26, 2013

The online auction is fading fast. Fewer than 15 percent of all who post EBay (EBAY) listings are opting for an auction-only sale these days, according to a paper published this month (PDF) by Stanford University researchers who worked with the online marketplace for their study. Most sellers instead choose to offer items at fixed, “Buy It Now” prices, making EBay more like a conventional e-commerce website than the online-auction pioneer it was in the 1990s.
“This sort of cried out from the data we saw,” says Liran Einav, a Stanford economist and one of the study’s four authors. “Most people view it as a big auction site, but we realized their business is much more like Amazon (AMZN).”
In part, the shift away from auctions stems from people preferring to focus on alternative online pastimes such as Facebook (FB) and YouTube (GOOG). Einav contends that these competing diversions have drained much of the allure from online bidding, which can take days to end in a sale. “People want to do stuff quickly, and doing stuff in an ideal market setting takes time,” he explains. “Some people like going to a garage sale and finding good deals, but most people hate it.” This speedy shopping dynamic has accelerated on mobile devices: According to the study, EBay’s mobile users reduce their browsing time by 25 percent on average, relative to those on computer
The signature benefit of the online-auction format—arriving at efficient prices for even the most unusual items—has lost some its purpose as well, thanks to the proliferation of e-commerce venues with posted prices. Even EBay’s own archive of sales data helps users zero in on a market rate quickly, without needing to pit potential buyers against one another in an auction.
The upside of EBay’s buy-it-now economy? Buyers willing to bid are getting better deals. In recent years, auctioned items have sold at prices about 16 percent below similar items offered at fixed prices, according to the study. “The rationale for auctions becomes less about price discovery and closer to the use of couponing and other promotional strategies seen in more traditional retail markets,” the study notes. And many items still lend themselves to auctions, including collectibles, jewelry, and such rare objects as locks of Justin Bieber’s hair.
None of this is news to EBay, which for years has been pushing its business model beyond bidding. In 2008, EBay changed its search algorithm to rank results more heavily on relevance than time left in an item’s sale window. That tweak helped trigger a big drop in auctions. Still, the shift away from auctions hasn’t put a damper on results: Last year, EBay’s marketplace websites generated $6.1 billion in revenue, a 12 percent increase over 2011.
Stock is an associate editor for

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bloomberg BusinessWeek: Technología Esta Semana

Baidu Chief Executive Officer Li

Baidu Chief Executive Officer Li


Baidu Makes a $370 Million Move to Become China's YouTube

May 07, 2013
“We prefer buy to build,” Baidu (BIDU) Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said of the premier Chinese search engine’s growth strategy during an analyst call last month. On Tuesday, Li put those words into action: Baidu announced that it is spending $370 million to buy the Internet video business of PPS Net and merge PPS with its own online video operation,
The deal will leapfrog Baidu ahead of rival Youku Tudou (YOKU) to make it the top online video company in China, the company says. It already enjoys Google-like dominance of the Chinese search market and doesn’t have to worry about competing with Google’s YouTube (GOOG) because Chinese censors block access to the U.S. company’s online video service.
Baidu could use a boost. After years of impressive growth,the company is slowing down as Chinese Internet users shift away from PCs to smartphones and tablets. On April 26, Baidu reported that net income for the first quarter had increased 8.5 percent. Not bad, unless you compare the result to the average growth over the previous five quarters—64 percent. The quarterly net income of 2.04 billion yuan ($331 million) was 6.8 percent below analyst estimates.
The picture won’t be getting much brighter for Baidu in the near future. “With substantial margin contraction ahead, earnings growth will likely be muted,” Brean Capital analysts Fawne Jiang and Long Lin wrote in an April 26 report. Baidu’s ADRs have dropped 31.5 percent in the past 12 months, compared to a 59 percent increase for Internet security company (QIHU), which last summer launched a rival search engine, adding to pressure on Baidu.
For Robin Li, that means the No. 1 spot is becoming more expensive. Baidu’s traffic acquisition costs amounted to 10.2 percent of revenue in the first quarter, compared with 7.8 percent a year earlier, and analysts Ma Yuan and Gu Xinyu of Bocom International expect the total to hit 13 percent by the end of the year. That would put Baidu back to where it was before Google withdrew from the market in 2010, helping Baidu solidify its dominant position in Chinese-language search.
The PPS Net deal is part of Baidu’s response as competition heats up and its traditional PC-based search business becomes less attractive. Baidu isn’t the only Chinese heavyweight looking to diversify by moving into new businesses. On April 29, e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba Group announced a commitment to invest $586 million for an 18 percent stake in Weibo, the Twitter-like service owned by Chinese portal Sina (SINA), with an option to increase the holding to 30 percent. Tencent has 300 million users for its WeChat instant messaging app and is looking to launch entertainment services for smartphone and tablet users.
With PPS Net, Baidu is trying to catch up. “Alibaba beat Baidu to the punch with its social-media acquisition,” says Praveen Menon, an analyst with Bloomberg Industries in Hong Kong. Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent (700), the three most powerful companies in Chinese cyberspace, all have similar game plans, Menon adds. The Big Three are in a “race to control the mobile ecosystem,” he says.
 “These companies need to transition their platforms to grab consumer eyeballs on mobile devices to maintain ad revenues while also diversifying to non-ad streams such as mobile commerce, gaming, and content sales.”
Einhorn is Asia regional editor in Bloomberg Businessweek's Hong Kong bureau.