This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.
M E D I A   U N S P U N
Our eBay, Ourselves
2002-05-13

Journos love eBay. The auction service is hugely popular and well understood by the masses. It provides a hook for stories ranging from NASA's aging technology to Sumerian cuneiform and the new-mediazation of Assyriologists. And as one of the most successful surviving dot-coms, eBay is a bellwether for all sorts of Net trends.

News.com can be relied on to cover the e-business side of eBay. Troy Wolverton picked up on a notice on one of eBay's announcement boards that the auctioneer will soon begin testing pop-up ads on its Web site -- try to imagine the joy of its buyers and sellers. Wolverton mentioned that eBay had recently recast its multi-year advertising deal with AOL. A Reuters piece, carried by Forbes and others, dealt details from an SEC filing: eBay has lowered its dollar commitments to AOL and made them contingent on results. (Unspun commends Forbes for publishing the Reuters guides to what has changed in its wire-copy stories from one update to the next.)

News.com's Paul Festa captured some of the populist feel of the eBay experience in a story about eBay University, a one-day road-show seminar now making the rounds. Festa characterized the experience as "a cross between a traveling business school, an enthusiast's convention, and a religious revival." Unspun wonders at the image of a three-way cross, but gets the idea.

Many outlets picked up a story from yesterday's New York Times in which William J. Broad explored the perils of keeping NASA's aging technology base supplied with spare parts. Of course, NASA turns to eBay to find such items as eight-inch floppy disk drives (the kind that read disks that actually are floppy) and Intel 8086 chips. Broad quoted a spokesman for the company that runs the shuttle fleet: "It's like a scavenger hunt" that "takes some degree of heroics."

Finally, Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski turned in a fascinating picture of the handful of practitioners of Assyriology and Sumerology updating their working methods from index cards to databases, more or less overnight, as precious ancient artifacts stream out of Iraq and into private hands. Of course Mieszkowski chose eBay to hang the story on. Name another Web site that spans so effortlessly from the dawn of writing to the space age. - Keith Dawson

eBay to serve up pop-ups
http://news.com.com/2100-1017-909440.html

EBay cuts long-term ad commitment with AOL (Reuters)
http://www.forbes.com/business/newswire/2002/05/10/rtr599483.html

VeriSign to auction domain names on eBay (Reuters)
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/3218401.htm

eBay 101: Copious notes, hard questions
http://news.com.com/2100-1017-900073.html

For Old Parts, NASA Boldly Goes ... on eBay
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/12/technology/ebusiness/12NASA.html

Hey, mister -- wanna buy a 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablet for $10?
http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/05/11/sumerian/index.html