eBay and interactivity

21 02 2010

One thing that has kept eBay ahead of its competition and the customers coming back is a certain level of interactivity. Online shopping has become a distinguished online experience, and eBay wants the experience to be as easy and user-oriented as possible. This helps the site with retaining customers, and the chance they will return. eBay remains the most popular of all online auction sites, currently ranking 23rd worldwide on Alexa’s traffic rankings.

Considering the vast amount of auctions occurring at anytime, eBay provides advanced search options, as well as search by category. Additionally, search results can be further refined to ensure all product details match your criteria. For example, a simple search for “camera lens” yielded over 58,000 results. But there was also options to further narrow the results by brand, type of lends, price range, condition, etc.

Once the results are refined to the user’s preferences, the remaining results can be organized in various ways, including by price, auction time left, or best match. For the users that enjoy an extremely personalized set-up, eBay also provides the option for the user to rearrange the view completely.

Browsing auctions is also becoming easier. In fact, the user never really has to leave the search results page. If the seller has provided an enlarged picture of the product, a simple rollover will show this off. And in the case of multiple pictures, a rollover slideshow depicting the product. This way the user can quickly scan the results and find exactly what they are looking for.

And the actual purchasing process is fairly simple. eBay owns PayPal, one of the most commonly used e-commerce tools. The simple checkout process will automatically, and safely, transfer funds from the user’s bank accounts or credit card to the sellers. Of course other forms of payment are accepted at the seller’s discretion.

Seller ratings have also become a popular way of leaving feedback for any transaction, for both the buyer and the seller. This option allows users to research who is selling these products and add some quality and safety assurance to the online shopping experience.


MegaGlom!: Consequences of Mega Media Conglomerates

19 02 2010

With the Comcast – NBCU buyout/merger potential lurking right around the corner, there has been recent concern about what might happen if today’s media system continues to head down path of the mega-corporation, conglomerates, monopolies, and duopolies. How will media change if these companies are continually bought-out and run by a handful of major corporations?

Media analyst, Robert McChesney, seems to think that one side effect would be a decrease in content quality. If one company owned several of the top local and national stations and networks, McChesney suggests that, because of the decreased competition, content will become increasingly uniform. If a company owns a certain market, they have less of a need to create higher-quality produced content because there is less competition, not to mention that the company will have more or less complete control over what airs and when.

That makes sense – if you are the only supplier, then people have to get their media through you, which means more profits. And the less you spend on production, even more profit.

But I would argue that this uniformity is already apparent in today’s media, regardless of the amount of media companies and stations. Think about the three largest networks right now, NBC, CBS, and ABC. In the primetime slot, they all play Cop/Doctor dramas, competition-based reality shows, sitcoms, etc…. Now look at some other smaller stations. CW is jumping on the Drama/Dramedy bandwagon, TBS played mostly reruns, and Family Guy can be seen on TV at almost any given time in the day.

(NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, – CSI, CSI: New York, CSI: Miami – Law and Order, L&O: Special Victims Unit, L&O: Criminal Intent, L&O: Crime and Punishment, L&O: Trial by Jury)

One of the possible reasons for this uniformity is a general lack of original ideas. All the good, original ideas are taken, and we are left to add creative twists on the same old ideas. How many times has the “Guy meets Girl” bit been done? And doesn’t the bomb always wait till 00:01 to stop ticking?

Another reason is the money, obviously. When one station or company gets a hit show, other stations will recreate it. A few years ago we saw an emergence on 3-Judge Competition Vote-Off reality shows across all networks. There was also a string of reality dating shows from “The Bachelor” to “A Shot at Love.” It’s supply and demand. One type of show becomes a hit, we demand more, and any and every station is willing to provide us with “unique” content.

Now, not that media conglomerates, monopolies, and duopolies help prevent uniformity (and in fact may further advance it), but they are definitely not the only contributing factor. When it comes down to the bottom line, media is a business and people want to make money. For some that means jumping on the new, hot show bandwagon, and for others it means buying and owning as many companies as possible. Either way, it’s the money that moves the media.

A Great Idea

8 02 2010

What’s an interactive media idea you wish you had?  What made it a good idea?

As a self-proclaimed television junkie, Internet television has recently made a profound impact on my views and participation with interactive media. Lots of video content has made the leap from the television screen to the computer screen in recent years. Sites like Hulu.com are allowing users to watch full television shows and movies online. Netflix, a popular movie supplier, is also making hundreds of movies and television series available online, on demand. With video on the rise in the interactive media realm, Hulu and similar sites are an interactive idea that I wish I had.

In the days before Hulu, there were limited options if you happened to miss your favorite episode of Survivor. Sure, you could read about who got voted out in the paper, or ask your friends got to watch it, but it does not replace actually watching the castaways battle it out and see their torch get snuffed. So in order to actually watch your favorite show, you would have to record it with a VHS tape, or you could use your TiVo or DVR to record it. But the problem with both of those options is that you would have to own one of those devices, and plan to record it in advance. And who still uses VHS, let alone owns a VCR? And of course, there is always the possibility that you don’t even have cable, or a television.

Enter Hulu.com. Hulu allows anyone with an Internet connection to watch their favorite shows on their own schedule. And with minor commercial interruptions, the video is still free for users, yet companies can generate revenue, making it a Win/Win relationship between producers and consumers.

Many major stations are also putting videos and episodes available on their website, but Hulu provides a one-stop location for all your favorite shows. Now you never have to miss an episode!