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AOL bets on Net auctions

Digital bidders will find another auctioneer on the Net this spring: America Online.

Digital bidders will find another auctioneer on the Net this spring: America Online.

AOL announced today that it will partner with Internet Liquidators International, a service conducting real-time online auctions, where customers can bid on and purchase items from computers, software, and consumer electronics to sporting goods, appliances, and clothing.

Under the non-exclusive deal the companies will share revenue equally, which is about a 12 percent commission on all sales, according to Paul Godin, Liquidators' president. AOL will also take a minority equity interest in Internet Liquidators.

Since AOL implemented its flat-rate price of $19.95 per month, it has been actively looking for alternative revenue streams. Net auctions may be a lucrative market for the online service: AuctionWeb reported last week that someone bought a 1959 "Suburban Shopper" Barbie for $7,999.

"ILII's auction platforms will provide real value for our electronic commerce customers, and in addition to allowing our members to purchase brand-name products at discount prices, ILII will run showcase segments exclusively for AOL members," Bob Pittman AOL Networks president and CEO said today.

One popular feature is Liquidators' price-declining auction in which the cost of an item drops as a five-minute timer runs out.

"Consumers see an opening street price, a picture of the product, a ticker showing the declining price, and the amount of supplies left," Godin said. "The challenge is that you never know how many people you're competing with."

Liquidators has been raking in tens of thousands of bids per month and thousands of sales since it launched in Canada in April, and United States since last summer. AOL is smart to get into the action, some Internet analysts say.

"People get a thrill out of the online auction environment," said Bill Doyle senior analyst for Forrester Research. "AOL is smart to pull something like this under its umbrella. As a concept it's a great one. It's made for the Web."

However, Doyle said one thing Net auctions can improve on is explaining their rules as often they are confusing.

Other auctions on the Web include: Onsale, Auction Block, and Auction Net. They are also many sites for hard-to-find collectibles and antiques such as AntiquePhoto.Com and Hobby Markets Online, which offers rare coins, stamps, and sports memorabilia.