NAALive finally comes to an end

Long a thorn in the sides of other Internet bidding providers, the National Auctioneers Association‘s affinity relationship with is coming to an end. We’re excited about this development, as we feel it will foster a more open and competitive development of Internet bidding methods and techniques among all the vendors. Here’s the release.

Overland Park, Kan., August 31, 2009 – National Auctioneers Association (NAA) announced today the dissolution of its relationship with Inc. (NYSE Amex “AAC”) , a high-tech liquidator and online auction facilitator that operates the domains and NAA Live is an online auction site utilized by members of the NAA to market auctions both live and online. The NAA has maintained an affinity relationship with Inc. for over 5 years. The NAA is the nation’s largest professional association dedicated to the auction profession and industry. Membership in the NAA ranges from real estate and art auctioneers, to heavy equipment and automobile auctioneers.

“It was determined by the NAA and Inc. leadership that the two organizations would terminate their affinity relationship effective August 31, 2009,” said Hannes Combest, NAA CEO. “Since the relationship was created, Ableauctions (NAA Live) has been a proud supporter of the association and its membership. NAA Live and other live online auction companies have led the way in the expansion of auction technology and thanks to their endeavors the auction method of marketing continues to grow and flourish both live and online in today’s marketplace.”

“While we have enjoyed our relationship with the NAA, this does not mark the end of our support for members of the association. Rather, we look forward to a new beginning with a cutting edge platform suitable for all types of auction and one which is fully adaptable to the needs of today’s auction marketplace. We will continue to support the NAA wherever possible and remain a proud advocate of the auctioneering profession.” says Thorsten Bonn, CEO of Inc. will continue to operate the domain name until April 30, 2010. Effective May 1, 2010, will direct back to the National Auctioneers Association homepage

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Watch champion auctioneers on YouTube

We follow @naaauctioneers on Twitter and so should you. Recent tweets from NAA have alerted us of today’s posting of video of the winners of the IAC to YouTube. Here are our 2009 IAC champions Kevin Borger and Terri Walker.

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Strengths of Internet bidding

Image representing TiVo as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

There is a device for your TV called a Slingbox. This device does what is called place-shifting, allowing you to watch your cable TV – that for which you’ve paid and normally watch at your home – on your mobile devices like your iPhone.

There is a device much more popular than the Slingbox – a device that has become so ubiquitous that its name has become a verb – called a TiVo. The TiVo, as we all know, does what is called time-shifting, allowing you to watch your programs on your schedule so that you’re not required to be in front of the TV when the show is initially aired.

There is a company in the Kansas City area called Public Auto Auction that is using a fairly unique Internet bidding model. It is essentially a real-time Internet only auction that is designed to emulate a live event. Their pre-auction bidding actually closes before the event and then bidders log in for a “lightning round” to establish the final price. Here’s the description of the mechanics from their website.

Each new bid will appear in the bid window. Click on one of the Set Bid Amount buttons to set your bid price, then click the Place Bid button. The High Bid button will turn green if you are the winner, and red if you have been outbid. When there are no bids for 5 seconds, the program will start a countdown. If there are new bids, the clock starts over.

Once the countdown reaches zero, a winner is declared, and the next vehicle is brought up for auction. These auctions continue as long as there is bid activity, so no one can place a bid at the last second.

Elsewhere on the site they write, “Place a prebid if you wish.” It’s clear that the majority of the activity is expected to occur during the lightning round. We have no firsthand knowledge of how successful this approach is, and we certainly aren’t criticizing such an interesting system, but we can’t help but notice the effort that went in to trying to simulate a live auction.

One of the biggest problems with a live auction is that someone is forced to pay attention at a specific time. All Internet bidding obviously takes care of place-shifting, so it doesn’t necessarily matter where you are, but for real-time Internet bidding it still matters when you are.

The specious defense often used is that pre-auction bidding is always available. However, buyers will understand that the real action occurs during a specific event like a live auction or a lightning round of bidding and won’t make their best bids until that time. We can never completely eliminate time from the equation, and the use of automatic extensions is a great way to ensure that time is less of a variable at the end of the auction, but Internet only auction that simply begins to end at a set time will reduce the perceived importance of an event and cause bidders to place greater trust – and greater bids – throughout the entire course of bidding.

This isn’t an article advocating Internet only auctions over live auctions. There are decisions we all must make based on the best interests of our sellers that will govern the choice between a live auction or an Internet only auction. However, when the selection has been made in favor of an Internet only event, we need to remember that our customers will get the benefits of both place-shifting AND time-shifting. When we try to create an artificial event to create excitement, we actually take away from the benefits of time-shifting and our bidders get fewer benefits and our sellers get less value.

Any system that forces or appears to force customer participation at a specific time will, in our opinion, ultimately lose out to systems that don’t offer an advantage based on the time of participation. Why is the TiVo much more popular than the Slingbox? Being at a specific place isn’t nearly as difficult as being somewhere at a specific time.

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Proxibid questions answered

Image representing Proxibid as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Our post on Wednesday described an announcement by Proxibid of their forthcoming embedding bidding service. This service will allow auctioneers to seamlessly embed Proxibid’s systems into the auctioneers’ web pages. In Wednesday’s post, we posed five questions we felt were important to ask of Proxibid and other providers who are looking to offer this type of service. Here’s a recap of the questions we posed.

  • Pricing structure – will it cost more to use the embedded solution?
  • Simultaneous exposure – will inventories exist on the portal and the auctioneers’ websites simultaneously?
  • Branding – will the bidding experience be non-branded or simply embedded?
  • Difficulty – how easy will it be for auctioneers to integrate the bidding system within websites?
  • Customer pooling – what will the bidder registration process look like and how will buyer information be shared?

We were contacted by Tom Clark, Proxibid’s Chief Operating Officer, and in a phone call this morning he answered these questions.

Pricing structure
Proxibid will not alter its pricing structure for auctioneers who elect to use embedded bidding. “Everybody gets it,” said Clark.

Simultaneous exposure
Items listed on auctioneers’ websites will also benefit from the exposure on This simultaneous exposure means an auctioneer’s bidders can place bids on and Proxibid’s existing customer base can place bids on

Branding and customer pooling
Clark made it clear that Proxibid’s goal was to provide a wholesale product that could be seamlessly integrated into an auctioneer’s website. The Proxibid logos, headers and footers will be removed, providing a user experience that feels congruent with the auctioneer’s site. Clark said that the goal was to remove the Proxibid branding from everywhere except where it would be required for legal reasons, such as upon registration where users must agree to Proxibid’s terms and conditions. Any existing Proxibid bidder will be able to participate in embedded bidding after meeting the requirements for the event set by the auctioneer without having to create a new account. Proxibid will be exploring allowing the ability for an auctioneer to further customize the pages with CSS and perhaps embed a logo into the bidding application, but those advanced customization options my not be available until future releases.

Clark said that Proxibid’s goal has been and will continue to be to “provide solutions that are economically viable and make sense.” With this regard, it is important that the embedded service be usable by the greatest number of Proxibid’s auctioneer clients. By using frames to include the inventory listings, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of website design will be able to easily utilize the service and users won’t be confused by changing domain names.

All in all, we think these are the answers auctioneers were hoping for and we look forward to reviewing this service, as well as those from other providers, in the months ahead.

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Media Convert is a free and easy format changing service

Media Convert - free and on line - convert and split sound, ringtones, images, docs

Media Convert - free and on line - convert and split sound, ringtones, images, docs

As we generate more video here at AuctioneerTech, we find ourselves becoming more and more familiar with format types. One of the challenges we faced with the creation of the Auction Video Podcast was getting the video into a format compatible with the iPod. This challenge, and many others, were immediately overcome when we came across a service called Media Convert.

Media Convert is a free, web-based service that supports over 100 different file formats and will convert any file to another same-type file. It’s not going to convert your Excel spreadsheet to a movie, but it will convert your favorite song into a ringtone and your favorite downloaded YouTube clip into Quicktime format and your favorite Photoshop PSD into a JPEG. For free.

The usage couldn’t be more simple. Simply select a file for upload from your computer. The input type is immediately detected. The output format select box automatically changes based on the input type to allow you to select from the supported file types that make sense for your input.  Once you’ve selected the output type from the select box, you can click OK to begin the process or you can adjust some advanced options. For video, the advanced options allow you to adjust audio and video quality, sound volume, etc…for pictures, the advanced options allow you to adjust compression level, aspect ratio – attributes that make sense for the file type in question.

Media Convert also offers some services that are somewhat tangental to those implied by its name.

  • Thumbnails – it can do some simple image effects to small pictures
  • File hosting – we’re not exactly sure how this feature works, but it looks like you can host files up to 120 days so long as the file is downloaded at least twice every 15 days
  • Send file to mobile – Media Convert will process a file and give you the location to download the file from your mobile device
  • Webmaster partner – integrate Media Convert into your website so your users can utilize its features (we’re looking into it for AuctioneerTech)
  • Format detector – if you have a file and aren’t quite sure what format it is, Media Convert will analyze a small part of it to tell you what to use to open it or view it

Media Convert, as far as we can tell, has only three small downsides. It’s free, so it’s ad-supported. It’s chock-full of ads. It’s so full of ads that it’s tough to tell what’s part of the site and what’s part of the advertising. We’re ok with that, however. Since we’re getting a free service we can overlook the ads. The second aspect to consider is that for many file types – especially large files like video – they queue requests and notify you upon completion. We’ve had files that we’ve uploaded take several minutes to as much as an hour before we were able to download the output file. Since Media Convert saves the output file for up to 24 hours and, again, since it’s a free service, we’re not complaining. The final limitation is more of a deal breaker for some tasks. Media Convert supports files up to only 200 MB. Video is really the only media type that will exceed this limit and, unless you’re working with HD video or clips longer than 10 or 15 minutes, it shouldn’t be a problem.

We’ve been using Media Convert for the last few months and have found it to be reliable and safe. It’s a great, free tool we keep in the box for when we want a quick conversion without the hassle of installing software and learning how to do it ourselves.

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