News Vs. Rumors, Which Is Which?
January 21st, 2000

This has been a pretty good month so far. We got through Y2K without any nuts going…well…nuts. MACWORLD Expo was a hoot. Lots of good news there. Then there was this week. Apple's earnings kicked butt. No doubt about it. Steve Jobs' new compensation package also kicks butt. You have to love the 10 million shares. And the jet, you have to love the jet. Did you know there are only 89 of those on the planet?

Things have been good at The Mac Observer too. Our readership and traffic has taken a big jump this month. There are few things more rewarding to a news organization than to see more people reading what you write, to have more people find value in the work you are doing. In other words, thanks to all our readers.

Schmoozing Aside

In the February 2000 issue of Macworld Magazine, the one that debuted during MACWORLD Expo in San Francisco, David Pogue wrote an excellent piece on rumor sites called "" This piece basically grades the various rumor sites on their accuracy. That's gotta' hurt. I've always thought it very lame that the rumor sites don't grade themselves, which is why I have graded both my own predictions as well as the general predictions and other prerelease information we have posted at The Mac Observer. It was pretty easy when we were dead-on right. It was more painful after this last MACWORLD. :-)

Back to that column in Macworld magazine, Mr. Pogue gives us a great plug (you can't buy that kind of exposure by the way. Thanks Mr. Pogue!). I quote:

I don't mean to imply that every Mac rumor is bogus. The rumor sites have scored some impressive hits, especially as real announcements have drawn near. The Mac Observer, for example, accurately predicted the release of the iBook, new iMac, and G4 models—but only a few weeks before each was actually announced.

Like I said, thanks! Actually, we not only "predicted" them, we had the exact specs ahead of time. But that's just nit-picking, isn't it... When you have and report the facts ahead of time, it's not a rumor. It's news. In this case, it is open to debate as to whether the news is fit to print, but it is still news.

So what is a rumor site?

Rumor sites began during the Clone Era, unless you call MacInTouch a rumor site (which I do not). Mac the Knife was in the rumor business long before that too, but as that column started out long ago in print at MacWeek, we aren't counting it as a "rumor site" either.

At that time (the Clone Era), the Internet itself was just coming into its own and Macheads were flying onto the net to find out the latest gossip. While many of us today take for granted the way in which we can access the latest information almost immediately after it is gathered (sometimes in mere minutes), at that time it was astonishingly liberating. Print magazines had a lead time of 2 to 3 months between writing and distribution, so we were all used to reading what was effectively news from 2 or 3 months ago. That's just the way it was, and we knew no better. Magazines like MacUser and Macworld were great resources, but the Internet was just so much faster!

When the Clone Wars hit, people wanted to know what was going on like never before. Not everyone, mind you, but those interested in the fate of the clone manufacturers on both sides of the issue were hungry for news. Or rumors. The cloners were all too happy to accommodate those people and would sometimes intentionally leak information to the press. At Apple, the morale was at devastatingly all-time lows, and company secrets seemed to be stored in some kind of huge sieve. Employees, angry at Apple or hungry for their 1.5 nanoseconds of fame, were sending so many messages to the press that extra bandwidth had to be brought into Apple to accommodate the traffic. Not really, but you get the point I hope.

Low and behold there is born what I believe was the first web site openly dedicated to nothing but Mac rumors, Mac OS Rumors (MOSR). I remember being on the beta testing team for Mac OS 7.7, oops, I mean Mac OS 8. Ryan Meader, the person behind MOSR, was publishing anything and everything on Mac OS 8 including advance information on features, screenshots, etc. Everyone in my testing cell was all a buzz at how annoying that was. Of course, we were also visiting the site regularly at the same time we were complaining. In reality, I think much of that complaining was due to the "turf" syndrome. We didn't want others to be privy to what we were enjoying ourselves, as opposed to suffering from righteous indignation that Apple's security was being compromised. We wanted to be special and resented that someone else might be enjoying the privilege of knowing about Mac OS 8. That's just my armchair psychology, so don't take it too seriously.

Anyway, my point is that Mac OS Rumors had plenty of fodder for the rumor cannon. News publications need to print daily, and rumor sites are no exception. And that is the problem inherently built into a strictly rumor site. You have to print something, even if you have nothing to print. This has, in my opinion, led to less than useful "information" surfacing on some of the rumor sites. I remember when a Power Computing exec told me (I have mentioned this before, so skip a bit if you don't want to hear the story again) that he was the "anonymous source at Dell" (or some such nonsense) behind the bogus story that Dell was going to buy Apple. Remember that one? It was bogus, but it was printed. I don't mean to slam Ryan on this too much either because you really have no way of verifying 99% of the stuff that comes in through e-mail. But that's the problem. You can't verify it, but a rumor site is compelled to print something. In fact, after I made my own MACWORLD predictions, we received information we couldn't verify that Pismo would indeed be seen at Macworld. The story was reasonable, and I think our source was legitimate, or at least being honest with us. I also still think that Apple was originally planning on showing the new PowerBook at San Francisco, but changed that plan shortly before the show. However, we couldn't verify it so we didn't run it. Our other 3 product scoops were verifiable, so we ran with them. The fan got a little messy on the iMac specs though. :-)

When Steve Jobs took back his old job at Apple, those security leaks I mentioned dried up faster than you can say "Pink Slip." At the same time, the cloners went away faster than you can say "Hey, wait a minute! I thought we had a contract!" There went the rumor fodder. So what's a rumor site to do? The results are plain to be seen, and that is the point of Mr. Pogue's column.

That brings me back to the beginning. Neat segue, eh? There is a difference between a rumor site and a news site. A news organization reports the facts, though it may sometimes take a stroll to the editorial side and makes predictions. A rumor site is really much more of an entertainment site, and there's nothing wrong with that I suppose. Just don't confuse a news magazine with a rumor site. MOSR, AppleInsider, and the other rumor sites are doing a thriving business, so obviously the demand is there. More power to 'em.

Check out David Pogue's column, it's a very good read. Also, thanks to Dan Knight at Low End Mac with whom I have had several conversations about rumors. In fact, Low End Mac has a column called The Rumor Mill that makes up silly rumors every week just for grins. [Hint: There was once a source called "The Looking Man." Hmmmm... Who do we know that might fit that name? Might as well have called me "that guy that works at The Mac Observer... heheh] Kind of hard to tell it from other stuff you might read on some of the rumor sites.

Your comments are welcomed.