Arik Hesseldahl

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A Quick Chat With eBay CEO John Donahoe


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Shares of Internet commerce company eBay are rising in the wake of a quarterly earnings report that beat the expectations of analysts by a penny per share. Sales were up by 18 percent on improving fortunes in its online marketplace and PayPal payments business units.

And while the marketplace grew 16 percent, which was better than most expected, there’s been a lot of attention recently on eBay’s new initiatives around mobile payments and instant delivery. I had a short conversation with CEO John Donahoe tonight, and here’s a quick summary of what we talked about.

AllThingsD: How do you feel about the state of your mobile business?

Donahoe: Pretty good. EBay invested early and heavily in mobile, and we’re the clear leader in mobile commerce and payments, and our results in the fourth quarter demonstrated that in spades. We ended the year with $13 billion in mobile commerce payments, 120 million downloads of our mobile apps and $14 billion in mobile payment volume. The mobile revolution is here and it’s changing how consumers pay for everything.

Everything? Not just coffee and the stuff I buy online?

We have an app called eBay Now that you can use in San Francisco and New York. It enables you to shop with several retailers like Macy’s and Home Depot and have the item delivered to you within the hour. Not just to your home, but to wherever you happen to be, based on your phone’s location.

Do you still consider Amazon to be your biggest competitive threat?

I think many retailers consider Amazon to be their largest competitive threat. We’re helping them compete in a multi-channel environment.

How is the old-school classic eBay auction business doing?

We give buyers and sellers lots of choice. Five years ago our marketplace business was 70 percent auctions and 30 percent fixed-price sales. Now its 30 percent auctions and 70 percent fixed-price sales. If you’re selling something like an iPhone, you probably want to do it at a fixed price. But if it’s a 1967 Ernie Banks baseball card, the value is in the eye of the beholder and you might prefer to sell it at an auction. It’s still 30 percent of what eBay does, but it’s a smaller and smaller percentage of our business. In the last quarter, fixed-price sales grew 22 percent and auctions grew 7 percent.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work