Forrester's events for marketing and strategy executives in North America and Europe

Here's a plug for two terrific events that Forrester is hosting in the US and the UK. The theme for these events is "Keeping Ahead of Tomorrow's Customer". We will be exploring the things companies need to do today in order to be thriving in 20 years.

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A "Christmas of Movie Tickets and Board Games"

So says the NY Times and AT Kearney. Maybe not even movie tickets -- 32% of online adults say they're cutting back on going to the movies, though that figure is way less than driving (63%), shopping (60%), and vacating (44%) less.

“It could quite frankly be one of the worst we’ve seen in 25 years,” Dean Hillier, a partner and a retail specialist with A.T. Kearney, a management consultancy, said of the Christmas shopping season. It is shaping up to be a Christmas of movie tickets and board games, he said, not of big-screen televisions and vacations. “This is the cocooning that we saw in the 80s, for goodness sakes, that we’re seeing coming back.”

We've seen cocooning more recently than the 80's.

American Airlines Unbundling?

According to the Associated Press, American Airlines is planning to follow the Air Canada a la carte pricing structure as early as next year.

Air Canada�s so-called unbundled approach is tiered to allow travelers to select different airfare structures. Tango is the no-frills, with only a portion of frequent flyer miles offered, higher change fees and a fee for advance seat selection. Tango Plus gives 100% status miles, complimentary seat selection, and lower change fees. Latitude and Executive Class follow this pattern with more flexibility and higher prices.

Once an Air Canada traveler selects the fare, they have the option to pay for additional features or, as Air Canada's cleverly markets, to "customize your flight". This includes baggage check in, prepaid food vouchers, and seat selection.

When Air Canada launched this pricing structure five years ago, they were rebuilding their brand after entering bankruptcy and having some serious service issues that opened the door for their competitor WestJet to gain share.

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Barry Has a Headache

From a Wall Street Journal interview with IAC head and former media mogul Barry Diller:

WSJ: Companies have struggled to make money in online video and social networking. What is the outlook for advertising in these areas?

Mr. Diller: You really want to get a headache? Try to understand Internet advertising. Social networking advertising is being discounted because there is so much inventory [of available ad spots], and because methods have not yet been found to make it very effective. Will that get figured out? I absolutely believe it will. What form will it take? Absolutely unknown.

File Next to Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus

And if you wish real hard, it'll come true.

Taylor Nelson's steady income should make WPP less vulnerable to a downturn in ad spending if the U.S. and other big economies enter a recession, analysts say. Many research products, such as television ratings and retail market-share data, typically continue selling well even when advertising demand slackens. In addition, the research industry is growing fast in the developing world, and global companies often prefer to use a single research firm in hopes of getting comparable data on a range of countries.

K.I.S.S. Award #2 - Tomy AeroSpider remote controlled car

You may recall that I announced the creation of the K.I.S.S. award (Keep It Simple, stupid) in April this year. Today I want to thank the Terries Take newsletter for alerting me to a worthy winner: The Tomy AeroSpider - a remote controlled car that climbs walls.

Aerospider

To get a preview of the wonderful things that this toy can do, check out this video:

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Are Kids Using Kindle?

Right now (Saturday morning) there are two bestellers in Amazon's top 100 Children's books that are Kindle editions, i.e., for its digital e-book. There are none in the Top 100 for adults. Does that mean more Kindle users are kids? Doubtful. The more likely answer is that more Kindle users are nerds. The two Kindle titles are both fantasy bestsellers: Christopher Paolini's Brisingr (no. 8 in kids' and no. 1 as print) and Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book (no. 34 and no. 9).

There are no Kindle editions in this morning's Top 100 in Amazon's SF & Fantasy category, but it looks like paperbacks drive that list, pushing hardcover and digital editions down from higher rankings.

Give Me My Music! UK Artists Talk Tough

A group of UK artists have got together to form the Featured Artists Coalition to demand better rights for them from record labels. There are some big names (Robbie Williams, Radiohead, Kate Nash, Dave Gilmour etc.) and among their priorities are owning the rights to recordings and a say in where their content gets licensed online.

Is this a shift in the balance of power? Not really. Paradoxically the labels' weakness is their strength at the moment: "we can't offer you more of the revenue pie because we're struggling to survive as it is, and without us you wouldn't be here". Radiohead were only in the position to go direct to consumer with "In Rainbows" because of years of record label support.

Granting more power and say to artists is however a wise path to follow within sensible confines, such as Terra Firma's bid to bring the majors inline with the smaller indies by offering smaller advances and 50% of NET revenues. This is the type of deal I was on when I was an artist and it gave me a real incentive to help ensure my records sold. The sight of boxes full of returns on a repress of my first release was painful enough to get me to help make the next one do better.

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Online travel gets greener

There are undoubtedly varying shades of green. We discussed this in a recent report called "Green Online Travelers
Assessing the Brand Impact of Travelers' Environmental Concerns" in which we determined that, while 42 percent of online travelers agree with the statement that they are concerned about the environment, those "dark green travelers" who have actively consider sustainability in their travel decisions is more of a niche at 7%.

Two new websites have launched aimed squarely at that 7 percent.

Vroom Vroom Vroom offers car rentals offers car rental through major companies and will purchase carbon offset programs for each rental. (Ok, I admit it: I was tempted to telephone directly just to hear someone answer the phone making cartoon car noises.) Green without costing more will certainly appeal.

We also saw the launch of Whole Travel this week, which lets travelers undertake open-ended destination and accommodation searches of sustainable hotels. Hotels have a �whole ranking� based on their (1) Environmental practices, (2) Economic management, (3) Social and cultural support, and (4) Customer interaction.

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Japan & Korea prefer anonymous social computing

Chang-Won Kim reports that Korea's top actress, Jin-sil Choi, has just taken her own life. It seems that she was deeply hurt by anonymous comments leveled at her online:

Chang makes the point that social media need a more robust system of identity and reputation to support online interaction -- so that communities have ways to freeze out irresponsible and hateful individuals.

I think this is a particularly serious issue in countries like Korea and Japan. In these countries, where "real life" society is quite buttoned up, people turn to online forums to let off steam anonymously. For example, Japan's social networks (such as Mixi) tend to be anonymous and the most famous bulletin board, 2-channel is full of posts under the identity "No Name". Many Japanese people feel that this anonymity protects their privacy and liberates them to say what they really think.

I remember a conversation that I had a few months ago with a Japanese technology blogger who hides his "real life" identity. His technology blogging struck me as inoffensive (and brilliant), so I couldn't understand why he asks people to refrain from taking his photograph and why he dons a disguise before making a speech in public. (It sounds like a comedy about the mafia... right?) He told me that he feels a need to stay anonymous, even for his politically neutral blog.

I wonder if it will always be this way? I hope that more people in Japan will see the value of social media where online identities are associated with offline identities. That seems to be the surest way to ensure that people behave responsibly.

[On an unrelated note - I have heard that the email subscription software on this blog has been sending out multiple emails with the same information. I'm trying to get that fixed as soon as possible].