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Auctions.com will be going, going, gone

The online auction site's parent company, Classified Ventures, which is owned by a group of big newspaper companies, says Auctions.com will close Aug. 31.

    The gavel is coming down on Auctions.com, which will close Aug. 31.

    The online auction house, whose parent company, Classified Ventures, is owned by a collection of media giants including The New York Times Co., Gannett and Knight Ridder, said all open auctions on the site will close the day before.

    Chicago-based Classified Ventures will focus on its Cars.com and HomeScape.com Web sites, David Israel, chief executive of Classified Ventures, said in a statement.

    "The reality of today's business climate demands we make hard decisions about where to focus our resources," Israel said. "The online automotive and real estate markets represent a much more significant economic opportunity for Classified Ventures and its investors than the online auctions business."

    Auctions.com is only the latest dot-com failure. In the past two weeks, the once high-flying Value America and Living.com both filed for bankruptcy protection. Other closures in recent months included Toysmart and Boo.com.

    Auctions.com represented an attempt by the big newspaper companies to defend their classified ad revenue against competition from eBay and other online auction sites. In addition to the main Auctions.com Web page, bidders could access the company's auction listings through 39 local newspaper Web sites, including Philadelphia Inquirer-aligned Philly.com and OrlandoSentinel.com.

    But the site never gained traction against eBay or any of the other online auction competitors. According to Classified Ventures spokeswoman Bess Gallanis, Auctions.com had only 416,000 unique visitors in June, compared with some 12 million for eBay.

    Likewise, the number and breadth of listings paled in comparison with eBay's. While Auctions.com lists some 219 auctions under "books and manuscripts," for instance, eBay lists 261,335 auctions under books alone.

    "It would be na?ve for anyone to say we're competing against eBay," Gallanis said. "There are a lot of auctions players out there, but eBay is the clear leader."

    Launched in 1997 as AuctionUniverse.com, Auctions.com was acquired by Classified Ventures in 1998 and relaunched as Auctions.com in December 1999.

    Gallanis also said Classfied Ventures has not decided what to do with the Auctions.com Web address once the company ceases operations.