You can sell a house or buy a Paris Hilton Garbage Pail Kids card on eBay — and now you can find out who's going to win "American Idol."
OK, so it's not foolproof, but the auction site seems to have found a semi-accurate formula.
Like DialIdol.com (see " 'Idol' Tries To Disconnect Speed-Dial Predictions Site"), eBay not only predicted Mandisa's departure last week, but the entire bottom three.
Using their eBay Marketplace Research program, the company discovered fewer than 10 Mandisa-related items had sold over the past month, compared to hundreds of items related to other singers.
"We thought it'd be interesting to see if there was any correlation between what people were voting for on 'American Idol' and what they were buying on eBay," eBay spokesperson Dean Jutilla explained. "And what we found was that they directly mirrored each other."
Well, not exactly (eBay had Elliott Yamin's and Paris Bennett's positions in the bottom three flopped), but it's fascinating nonetheless.
| 'Idol' Season Five Performances|
| Photos Of The 12 Finalists|
According to eBay's figures, Taylor Hicks has a strong lead, with 388 items sold, followed by Chris Daughtry (309), Ace Young (224), Kellie Pickler (120), Katharine McPhee (80), Bucky Covington (73), Yamin (23) and Bennett (10). The items range from pre-"Idol" CDs (for Hicks and some of the others) to a variety of homemade T-shirts, pins and even earrings.
"As eBay has gone more mainstream, with hundreds of millions of users, it's become a real barometer of what's in the pop culture," Jutilla said. "It's like a little stock market, and we're seeing that with 'Idol' right now. Taylor's stock is really high now, but Katharine may have a really good performance and get more investors next week. You see the market fluctuate."
EBay Marketplace Research was designed to help businesses and also spits out average selling prices (Taylor is tops again with $19.70), but "Idol" fans are welcome to join the $25-a-month subscription service.
And, of course, research is available far beyond "Idol." For instance, after Sunday's Masters golf tournament, eBay sold more than four times the usual Phil Mickelson items, and although he lost, Tiger Woods items still doubled.
After calculating the "Idol" contestant numbers, eBay also tested the popularity of host Ryan Seacrest and the judges. Simon Cowell was at the top with 75 items, followed by Paula Abdul (42), Seacrest (18) and Randy Jackson (six).
Jutilla's not ready to place bets on Hicks just yet, but he'll be watching the sales figures closely.
"The question, I guess, is: Is America looking for a whole marketing package?" he said. "I think Americans want to be a part of someone's career early on. They want to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, thinking they are going to make it big. And that's what these sales represent."