local media insider

To Boo Coo or not to Boo Coo?

Alisa Cromer
"Putting the awe back in auctions." Or perhaps the "Awe shucks"? A homier way to unload personal items.
From Tulsa's home page link: All about Boo Coo. Not much about Tulsa. Will it matter?
Enticingly playful? We think so.

The auction-site Boo Coo quietly launched on June 21 with 300 media companies and 1700 items. Since then postings have been growing at 15% "per day," although 10,000 of the new items are from a couple of power-sellers posting cars listings.

The company currently has licensed more than 6700 licensed zip code areas, about 22% of U.S. residential zip codes. According to Tony Marcello, VP of sales, 1000 more licenses will be under contract this week. "We will continue to do this until we exhausted every opportunity."

Marcello says that for media partners, licensing "eliminates all the competition," except of course, for EBay, the big daddy of the auction world and elephant in Boo Coo's room.

It remains to be seen whether or not Boo Coo, with no disruptive advantage in price or functionality will be able to attain critical mass through its one core advantage: Massive amounts of deep local media promotion  from partnering sites.

"A magnitude of promotion and magnification of the audience is enormous" Marcello points out. "Borrel's research shows that 37% all of all internet users get their information through newspaper sites."

Maybe so, but news site visitors don't currently go to these sites to buy and sell personal items; that market migrated over to for Craiglist and EBay a while back with no promotional partnering involved.

That's the Achilles Heel of this model: Truly disruptive technology has never needed backing from traditional media, and no media-backed me-too initiative has been able to make serious in-roads into a category killer like E-bay or FaceBook.

Marginally lower prices are not enough, as pointed out by the generally sensible media blog Lost Remote:

"If you’re selling something for, say, $100, you’re on the hook for 80 cents plus 6% of the sale price. On eBay, the same listing would cost you a dollar plus 9% of the sale. ..it will take more than saving a few pennies and two percent to win over fans.

"A free or nearly-free site would likely give people more incentive to sell their wares."

Boo Coo may still be able to reach out to the greater market of potential auctioneers who feel they have just never "been invited" to EBay. That could mean strength in smaller markets.  Here's Marcello's arguments, in quotes, for, and my inner litigator, in parenthesis, from a recent conversation:

"Boo Coo also boasts a more auction-like atmosphere since Ebay has evolved towards fixed pricing. ..There is a feeling of safety, comfort, credibility from using a newspaper site."

(Hmmm, there's a lot of comfort, too, in using the leading auction site)

"We want to bring back the kind of auction experience that was a lot of fun to do quite a while ago. There is also no advertising on the site. "

(But if I want to sell something by auction, don't I really want the most qualified buyers where they actually are?)

However, the non-Ebay market, ie the market that EBay didn't ask to participate, could be larger than we think.

Marcello recommended visiting TulsaWorld.com for best practices so far. Tulsa has engagingly catchy links on home page. Truth-be-told, I would be engaged by that link with its low-fear Google-esque primary colors and invitation to sell something. Even more so if it was my home town news site.

Marcello says Boo Coo will be doing training seminars, inviting new users retailers and merchants and high volume sellers. The seminars will include tips on opening an online store, how to use it instead of a garage sale and  the finer points of reverse auctions.

In the second or third week in July, Boo Coo plans to enhance a request for quote, or reverse auction, for service providers. All of this is intended to strengthen penetration in areas where eBay may fall short.

Our recommendation: We like the reverse auction aspect that is "coming soon". There's little down-side to license this site in smaller markets, or with some sales/ad campaign specific strategies that build out auction categories and sales in market specific ways.  In other words, there is immediately an almost free, platform for auction-based commerce and campaigns. In addition to the not so boo coo local transactions that may be incrementally inspired. 

For example, a local seasonal over-stock auction could be advertised in print and online. Plus time-limited online only "blow-out" sales where advertisers like the auction concept and need a robust item by item platform, plus additional promotion. 

In conclusion, Boo Coo is a wait and see proposition with a "sign right now" model. But the gamble is small and for a robust auction platform may be worth the investment of promotional space and time.

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

boocoo, marcello, ebay