In a week that that saw a rally in global stock markets and is seeing some of the best Black Friday deals in recent memory, it seems like the world has been able to recapture some sense of normalcy.

Here’s the news that caught my attention this week.

Apple to slash prices by up to 15% on Black Friday?

Heads up to our American readers: The Register is reporting that in an effort to boost sales on today’s Black Friday, Apple may be slashing some prices by 15% as part of its “one-day-only holiday shopping event.

Such discounts would certainly be gobbled up by Apple fans looking for iSavings.

Of course, what’s good for consumers isn’t necessarily good for companies. Apple, with its legion of loyal customers and successful track record of blending substance with style, has always been able to charge a premium for its products and is one of the few computer and consumer electronics manufacturers that hasn’t really been forced to compete on price.

If it does slash prices by 15%, it will be yet another indication of the tough times that have befallen retail.

BBC live streaming starts today

Do you watch BBC One and BBC Two? Now you don’t even have to leave your desk to do so. Live feeds of bothchannels are now available online and via some mobile devices.

Although some programming will not be shown due to licensing restrictions, the BBC’s Jana Bennett says that the launch of BBC One and BBC Two online streaming “completes our commitment” to make the BBC’s programming available online.

Unfortunately, that’s not entirely the case if you don’t live in the UK as BBC One and BBC Two live streaming are available only to UK residents.

While I understand the reasons why certain programs can’t be shown online and why services like this are geographically restricted, it’s my hope that as online distribution becomes more and more important to rights holders, licensing arrangements will be streamlined to ensure that great content can be easily viewed by those who want it.

Online Ad Sector Showing Signs of Strain

According to eMarketer, tough times are ahead for the internet advertising industry. Earlier this year, the research firm predicted internet advertising would grow by 14.5% in 2009. Today, it believes that growth will be a far more subdued 8.9% and “only” 10.9% in 2010.

For those involved in search advertising, however, the overall slowdown in online advertising may actually be a slight boon for business.

eMarketer’s David Hallerman believes that search advertising will fare far better than its display advertising cousin because of 3 letters – ROI.

He states:

“When budgets are tight, companies look to make the most cost-effective purchases they can. That’s one reason why display advertising will be far flatter than search. It’s harder to show a return on investment, and it’s not as effective in getting action from the audience.”

While display advertising will likely always be a part of the media buyer’s online mix, the dirty little secret that most brand advertisers know is that CPM-based advertising generally “just doesn’t work.” Search advertising when done well, on the other hand, often does.

From my perspective, the downturn will have some tangible benefits for both advertisers and publishers. As money moves to the places with the greatest perceived ROI, we’ll see very clearly which emperors have clothes and which ones do not.

YouTube Embraces Widescreen, Paves the Way for Hollywood Features

As YouTube increasingly recognizes that high-quality, professional content is key to its financial future, it has rolled out an update that plays all video in a widescreen (a 16:9 aspect ratio) format as opposed to its former format (a 4:3 aspect ratio).

Now that YouTube is focusing on professional content and offers some video in HD format, the new aspect ratio was all but a requirement.

Of course, while most of us love to say “change is good,” YouTube’s update was met with the predictable user complaints that seem all but guaranteed when popular services change anything.

As Webmonkey points out, YouTube could have taken a more user-centric approach and given users the ability to choose which format is used when videos are uploaded.

Once again, sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious when it comes to rolling out new features. That’s why getting feedback from users at all stages of development is so important.

Spam increasing again after shutdown of hosting company

Two weeks ago, I noted reports that the volume of spam emails being sent had dropped remarkably following the shuttering of California-based hosting firm McColo Corp. The Washington Post reported that the company may have been providing the backbone responsible for up to 75% of all spam.

While McColo’s demise and the associated decrease in spam was very good news for Internet users, it was inevitably news that was too good to last.

According to Symantec-owned MessageLabs, spam volume is on the rise again. It’s up to 37% of what it was before McColo went offline, showing that spammers are quickly adapting to the situation and moving to get the central servers that control their botnets reconstituted elsewhere.

While MessageLabs’ Matt Sergeant notes “We’ve increased [the spammers’] costs and, hopefully, that might put some spammers out of business,” it appears that until individuals stop buying the products that are advertised in spam emails, there will always be enough money in spam to make the cat and mouse game profitable.

Restaurateur tracks down bill dodgers on Facebook

You don’t have to be as famous as Bono for information posted on Facebook to get you in trouble.

An Australian restaurant owner who was stiffed by five young customers who left before they remembered to pay their bill used the world’s most popular social network to track them down.

The diners’ $340 free meal was the perfect heist except for the fact that one of the diners had asked about a waitress that used to work at the restaurant. The owner called her up and she suggested that he look at her Facebook contacts.

That led to the culprits, a payment in the amount of $340 and a generous tip.

While such stories are somewhat amusing, they do highlight the very serious fact that it’s hard to maintain any level of anonymity in today’s world, especially when you’re using social networking services.

Of course, that’s usually less of a problem for those who don’t steal than it is for those who do.