Gavel Falls on Auction.com

FRAMINGHAM (08/23/2000) - Citing low traffic and a plan to emphasize its real estate and automotive Web sites, Auction.com, one of many online auction sites, will close Aug. 31.

The site, which is owned by Chicago-based Classified Ventures Inc., a conglomerate of media corporations including, New York Times Co., Gannett Co., Knight Ridder, McClatchy Co., Tribune Co. and Washington Post Co., couldn't compete with auction giant EBay Inc., said Bess Gallanis, vice president of corporate communications at Classified Ventures.

All auctions will end on Aug. 30, the day before the site shuts down, the company said. Members of Auctions.com and local market partners will receive refunds on their investments.

Classified Ventures will continue to invest and maintain its automotive site, Cars.com, and its real estate site, HomeScape.com.

"The reality of today's business climate demands we make hard decisions about where to focus our resources. The online automotive and real-estate markets represent a much more significant long-term economic opportunity," said David G. Israel, president and CEO of Classified Ventures.

EBay's auction site received 12.5 million hits in July, while auction.com received 187,000 unique users, Gallanis said.

Auction.com didn't fit clearly into Classified Ventures business plan, she said.

"Auction technology is costly and complicated," she said. "We have had to make hard decisions on how to allocate resources." She added that the automotive and real estate sites consistently rate as the second-most visited sites in their respective markets.

Alan Alper, an analyst at Gomez Advisors Inc., said that Auction.com didn't rank highly in Gomez's evaluation of auction sites, placing as the eighth-best site out of nine.

The site didn't have enough categories for auctions and didn't have the advanced tools used by other auction sites.

"Let's be honest here. It's a tough space to get into if you're not eBay, Yahoo or Amazon," Alper said.

Like many other e-commerce sites, the auction market is seeing consolidation.

Alper said he expects to see three or four major players and a few niche sites remain in the auction market.

In 1997, Auctions.com was launched as Auctionuniverse.com. In 1998, Classified Ventures acquired the Web site and launched it in December last year under its current name.

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