Friday, September 01, 2006

CJU - a Preview

For me there are 2 can't miss conferences for the affiliate world - Affiliate Summit and Commission Junction University (CJU). This year's CJU is only 2 weeks away, running from 9/17 - 9/19 in Santa Barbara. This will be the 5th consecutive CJU I've attended, and every one has been an extremely well run and rewarding event. I'm anticipating a good event and I have a strong feeling that this year's CJU will be interesting and different in a few ways:

1. The departure of several key CJ employees. Jeff Pullen, Todd Crawford, Lisa Riolo, Elizabeth Cholawsky, and several other of the most tenured and respected people have left CJ in the past year. I am anxious to meet the new leaders of CJ and what their roadmap for the future is.

2. LMI (Link Management Initiative). I'm shocked that this issue is not being addressed through any topic on the current agenda, but I have no doubt that the audience will make this a hot topic. Even though CJ backed down from forcing this change on everyone, LMI was the the most contriversial affiliate issue we've seen in years. Shouldn't CJ be demonstrating all the reasons they wanted LMI and give affiliates the forum to voice their concerns?

3. The BeFree chopping block. This year Valueclick made the first moves towards forcing the BFAST platform into extinction by not renewing BeFree contracts and forcing merchants to move to the CJ platform when they expired. Most noteably, companies like The Gap, Brooks Brothers and Dicks Sporting Goods have all switched to Linkshare.

The real power of this event for me is in the networking and meeting with the people we do business with on a daily basis. Because our industry is spread across the globe, we only get a few chances a year to sit down and meet with our key partners face to face. Santa Barbara couldn't offer a more perfect setting, and NETexponent will be bringing 3 people besides myself to represent our clients.

Planning on going and want to meet? drop me a line at Chris at

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity Will Become Extinct

There is a new bread of travel sites cropping up that pose a serious threat to the current leaders in the online travel space. Sites like Sidestep and Kayak are significantly different than the "old school" travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity in that you do your price search through their site, but book directly with the airline or hotel.

With more and more airlines and hotels guaranteeing the lowest rates when booking directly, consumers will gradually become savvy enough to realize that there is little reason to book through an aggregator like Expedia. According to a recent report by HitWise, the market share of visits to travel meta-search engines Kayak and Yahoo! FareChase increased by over 70% from May 2005 to May 2006.

Further diminishing the value of the aggregators, many airlines such as Continental and hotels including Hilton, Starwood, and Marriott go beyond just the best rate guarantees and offer perks such as upgrades or bonus loyalty points for booking directly. If you read through TripAdvisor, you'll also find countless tales of people who booked through sites like Expedia only to find they had problems once they arrived because they did not book direct.

There is also a pretty revolutionary new site still in beta called that tracks average airfare prices between major cities and advises you on the best time to purchase based on recent trends. Sites like this give the consumer so much more buying power than they have ever had before.

The one area that companies like Orbitz and Expedia can fight back is in packages. A recent search for airfare + hotel for an October trip to San Francisco if booked directly through Marriott and United Airlines would have cost me about $1250, while a package booked through Expedia would have only cost $775, a savings of 38%. I tested several other travel scenarios and found nearly all of the packages to be considerably cheaper than buying direct.

The late 90's saw the virtual extinction of offline travel agents when people discovered online travel booking, and I think it will only take 3-5 more years before sites like Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity also border on extinction.