A while back eBay began mining and reselling information from its database of transactions on its site. At the time, while most people ignored the announcement from eBay, I said that it marked a massive change in the market for price information.
It is a kind of “informating” apotheosis. That is, eBay now throws off profligate amounts of information along multiple dimensions — prices, volumes, types, products, etc. — because of the way it has been automated. Capturing that information and reselling it, given eBay’s size and scope, is a big deal in the worlds of pricing, competitive intelligence, and even microeconomics.
Here are some nuggets from a new piece in USA Today talking about how eBay is beginning its mine its own systems:
- At the beginning of 2003, BMWs, Gucci and Prada were among the 10 most-searched terms. Now the most-searched items have shifted to Fords, anything pink, and gold (the kind you store in a wall safe).
- Word searches for all of 2002 reflect a society still spending freely. Among the top 10 searches for the year were BMW, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Coach.
- Similar terms dominated the top 10 into early 2003, until August, when there was a sudden shift. The Iraq war was dragging on. Companies were still cutting jobs and keeping raises flat. The blackout hit. California was in political chaos with its recall vote. And just then the luxury names dropped off eBay’s top 10, replaced by more mundane words such as Ford, Chevy and diesel.
- In September, “salvage” made it to the top 10.