The Fiction That Is Cyber Monday

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Coverage of Black Friday can read like correspondence from some foreign war, as in this from WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.

Or it can feel like coverage of a 100-year-old labor war, as with The Christian Science Monitor live blog of Wal-Mart ( WMT) labor troubles .

I avoided the whole mess, shopping online and blogging about it for TheStreet . Maybe you avoided the crowds, too, waiting for today, Cyber Monday.

If you did, you're as much a victim as anyone who found themselves in a tent outside a Best Buy ( BBY) last week.

Cyber Monday, like Black Friday, is a fiction.

As A.J. Kohn notes at Blind Five Year Old , the biggest shopping day of 2005 was Dec. 12. It has been moved up two weeks despite employers restricting employee use of the Internet, and despite the rise of broadband and tablets making access a true 24-7 proposition.

How? Marketing, of course.

The term was first coined by Shop.Org, a unit of the National Retail Federation. It started an annual list of "Cyber Monday" deals in 2006 and the concept spread. It's now used in six countries.

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday have the same aim -- to turn a desire for spending less into a mania that leads to you actually spending more. It's American exceptionalism in action.

As with Black Friday, deals drive Cyber Monday. A 32-inch TV at Amazon.Com ( AMZN) for $247.99. A 75% off sale on diamond earrings. Investopedia has some others.

But the really big deal this year, as I noted Friday, are the apps. Carry an app into the store that compares the price you're seeing to what you could have gotten in a catalog or online, like Priceblink, and it all turns into a frothy shopping meringue. Hand over your credit card -- resistance is futile.

That frothy mix is big data, which is what shopping comparison sites like privately held TheFind.com are in the business of collecting. Its biggest competitors are units of other companies. NexTag is mostly owned by Providence Equity Partners. Pricegrabber is owned by Experian ( EXPN), the Irish-based credit reporting firm. Shopping.Com is part of eBay ( EBAY).

Want to get away from all that? After eBay bought Shopping.com parent GSI Commerce last year, as TechCrunch reported , founder Michael Rubin launched a new outfit, Kynetic.com, pushing a set of infrastructure-based business models like Shoprunner, which is aggregating retailers against Amazon Prime through a membership plan.

Kynetic also runs RueLaLa, a members-only fashion site, and Fanatics, a fulfillment site for licensed sports merchandise. As I was trying to say a week ago, infrastructure is the new black.

Finally, if you think of Cyber Monday as just another way to avoid taxes -- sales tax in this case -- that window is closing. The coalition fighting to impose online sales taxes, TheHill reports , includes the National Retail Federation, whose Shop.Org unit invented Cyber Monday.

Happy clicking.

At the time of publication, the author had no holdings in the companies mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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