As I tried to point out yesterday in the post about all the nutty reports about the features that the new iPhone 5 might or might not have, it’s really pretty much impossible to guess in advance what some new product will look like.
Nevertheless people keep trying, because let’s face it, stuff like this drives page views, and page views are what modern journalism is all about. The problem is, these “scoops” are often wildly wrong. Yet people keep writing them, and readers keep reading them and linking to them and citing them as if they were actual news.
Why is that? I think it’s because most people are not dickish enough to go back, after the real product is announced, and compare the actual news to the rumors that were spread around before from people who just knew, based on some source(s), exactly what some company was going to announce.
In that spirit, let’s go back to Sept. 2 and take a look at the huge scoop that TechCrunch reported after one of its writers didn’t just hear some rumors about the forthcoming Amazon tablet but actually held it in his feverish hands and used it! Its title: “Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It.”
The story was tweeted 4,860 times, drew 212 comments and was linked to by Robert Scoble on his Google+ stream where dozens of people debated whether the product would be a success based on the specs that TechCrunch had reported.
Problem is, much of what TechCrunch reported was wrong. Including the name of the product and its price.
Here are some of the claims from that Sept. 2 article about the new Amazon device:
* “It’s called simply the `Amazon Kindle.’”
* “So how much will the 7-inch Kindle cost? $250.”
* “I believe it is running on a single-core chip (though I’m not 100 percent sure).”
* “I also believe the device only has 6 GB of internal storage.”
* “The plan right now is to give buyers a free subscription to Amazon Prime.”
* The browser “looks pretty much the same as the Android’s WebKit browser.”
* “I believe the visual web reading app Pulse will be bundled with the Kindle.”
* “As far as the existing e-ink-based Kindles, all I’ve heard is that they’ll continue to co-exist with this new tablet.”
* “One source said it doesn’t seem likely that Amazon is going to release a touch-screen e-ink Kindle. … But none of that is confirmed, it’s simply speculation.”
What TechCrunch got right: Seven-inch screen, running Android. And this is a mere three weeks before the actual event, from a reporter who actually used the device.
The point is not to gloat over the fact that TechCrunch made mistakes. The TechCrunch guys are good reporters and in this case they seem to have had a very good source.
The point is that nobody ever really knows what some company is going to announce. So it is futile and pointless to make predictions like this, and it’s irrational to believe the predictions you read. All of this predicting new products based on rumors ends up being nothing more than a giant pointless circle jerk, over and over again.
We would all be better off if we waited for companies to actually announce actual products before we worked ourselves up into a frenzy reporting and discussing their specs and features. Otherwise all we’re doing is allowing ourselves to be exploited by consumer electronics companies, letting them turn us into unpaid members of their hype machine.
And what do we get out of it? We get page views. So at the end of the day what we have accomplished is that maybe we have squeezed a few bucks out of some advertisers by publishing incorrect information that was of little value to anyone. This is what we are doing with our lives.
Yeah. I know what you’re thinking: Stand back from the keyboard, crazy old angry person who doesn’t understand what new media is all about.
Great. Fine. Now I will go piss up a rope.
[Photo credit: Engadget]