eBay Pulls The Plug On Retro Thing
By James Grahame
Retro Thing has been a member of the eBay Partner Network for years. It's a program that helps websites earn money by linking to eBay auctions, and we've used the income to pay some of the costs of running the site.
We got an email from eBay last week telling us that our account was under review. They demanded a "detailed explanation of how you are driving traffic to eBay, or you risk the termination of your account and 100% reversal of commissions." They even wanted server logs.
I responded immediately but received an email last night stating that they're terminating our account. The form letter wished us good luck in the future. It also curtly stated, "You are not permitted to rejoin the eBay Partner Network," and concluded with a cheery admonition that "At this time, we are not reconsidering our decision." We seem to have been tarred with the same brush as Internet ad spammers.
This is a nightmare scenario for several reasons. Since I started this site five years ago, we've frequently recommended eBay as a source for hard-to-find classic technology. I suspect we've made a great deal of money for the company by encouraging people to scour less visited categories in search of cool gear.
The second problem is more serious. Retro Thing has always been a daftly impractical labor of love. The loss of income from eBay puts the site in a situation where it may not be able to pay its way. We're not talking a huge amount -- eBay has generated under $1000 so far this year -- but it's a large enough shortfall that it could spell the end.
It has always been a challenge to convince advertisers that placing their products alongside "old junk" is a smart move, yet most Retro Thing readers are technology junkies who appreciate clever design in any form. You're the kind of alpha geeks who enjoy juxtaposing iPads and classic console stereos. You're the guys (and you are mostly guys) who know how to hook up an entertainment system. And you're the serious gamers who also appreciate the brilliant simplicity of Mario and Galaga.
This is the point at which we ask you for help. If you know of a company that would be a good advertising fit for Retro Thing, please encourage them to contact us. And If you can afford it, a small donation will help to keep the lights on. I've got a couple of copies of Essential Retro on the shelf - donate $50 or more and I'll sign one for you.
[Update: eBay contacted us a few days after this ran because of complaints from Retro Thing readers. They reinstated our account.]