All the news that’s fit to fake.
You’d have to insert your head fairly deep in the sand these days to avoid the term “fake news.” It’s seemingly everywhere, the notion that some media outlets either distort or invent the truth for their own gain. Recently, this has pertained mainly to politics, but the notion of artifice in our daily news consumption is not a new one — especially if you’re a regular visitor to tech blogs.
To wit, this past week, President Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus, told CBS’s Face the Nation that “the media should stop with this unnamed source stuff, put names on a piece of paper and print it. If people aren’t willing to put their name next to a quote, then the quote shouldn’t be listed.”
A good portion of tech reporting is sourced anonymously, mainly to protect the people from getting in trouble.
A good portion of tech reporting — including a significant amount of content that goes up on this site — is sourced anonymously, mainly because the people with the information would get into trouble if they were found out. And while, compared to the gravity and consequence of political leaks, a photo of an unreleased handset may seem trivial, the reality is that there are actual people putting their jobs on the line to share this information — when it’s real.
The other side of the coin is that, for whatever reason — recognition, intrigue, or just shits and giggles — information is often embellished or entirely made up, and the echo chamber of the tech blogosphere often picks through the pieces to decide what it real, and what isn’t.
At my previous job, I was privy to a fascinating series of events that gave me insight into how this whole leak process works, and the repercussions for all involved. In 2013, a very high-profile phone was on the horizon, and the company had kept most critical leaks to a minimum in the weeks leading up to the announcement. But an employee at the Canadian branch of a big retail chain decided to forgo his NDA and send a bunch of marketing material to my then-boss, who, as one does when running a tech blog, posted it to the site. Several takedown requests and a lawsuit later, the experience reinforced just how seriously companies take leaks when they potentially affect the bottom line.
But all manufacturers know, and anticipate, that most leaks, especially early on in a product’s hype cycle, are either entirely false, or lack the context to paint a proper picture. Sites that post about these leaks regularly often build a reputation for being unreliable; others that choose only to publish verifiable leaks miss out on considerable traffic. The vast majority of reputable tech sites (a category in which I hope Android Central is placed by most) will strike a balance, erring on the side of caution while, for better or worse, admitting that some facts are not verifiable.
Of course, fake news is only truly so until the facts are revealed.
Our friends at Android Police even recounted, after Google’s Pixel event this past October, which of its leaks were indeed accurate (and came away looking pretty good, in my opinion), a degree of self-reflection perilously missing in this field.
Of course, fake news is only truly so until the facts are revealed, which is a little easier to do when they involve products that will actually be available to the public. In the case of a phone leak, it’s relatively easy to test its efficacy after the fact, but few do, and even fewer are held “accountable” — whatever that means. In the end, it’s just part of the marketing arm, and we’re no less guilty of participating than anyone else.
- Much of the AC team will be leaving for Barcelona, and Mobile World Congress, this week.
- The official show begins on February 27, but the vast majority of the coverage you care about will be in the days leading up to it.
- Look for announcements from BlackBerry on the 25th, followed by LG, Huawei, Samsung, Motorola — even Nokia — and many others.
- Unlimited phone plans are back in the U.S., but they look a lot different than just a few years ago. The good news is that, thanks to competition, the plans — especially for families or groups — are actually pretty compelling.
- I have to say, based on what I’ve seen of the LG G6 — I enjoy a good leak, too! — I’m pretty excited. Provided what I’ve seen is real.
- We broke a promise by not releasing a podcast last week, but we’ll make it up to you!
- I’m loving the questions posted in Ask Daniel, so please keep them coming!
Hope you have a great week, and we’ll talk again very soon.