Blog Readers: "Gullible," or Just in a Hurry?


Here's the best quote I've read about the Internet in a few weeks:

Readers, if you want the stuff that's been combed over and confirmed 100%, wait 'til tomorrow's paper. Just know that you'll be 20 hours behind the news, and you still can't be sure that the facts are right.

That's Brian Lam of Gizmodo, a popular gadget blog, commenting on what's become known as "AppleGate."


In short, the news/blog site Engadget (Gizmodo's arch-rival) erroneously reported (apparently, it fell for a hoax from within Apple itself) that the hotly anticipated iPhone and Leopard OS projects were set for another delay. Engadget ran with the story before it could confirm or deny with Apple, and the company lost about $4 billion off its market cap.


Yep, $4 billion. Apple has recovered much of the value, but company execs say the incident cost it millions in interest.


CNET today has a wrap-up on the situation entitled "Welcome to the Era of Gullibility 2.0." It's an interesting read that closes with an open-ended question about how such an error would be redressed at, say, The New York Times, along with the general nod to the idea that the Internet is all about being first.


I don't think you can call avid blog readers, at least most of them, truly gullible. Maybe they are just jaded, as Lam's snippet suggests. They don't trust the mainstream media, so why not trust bloggers, who when it comes right down to it are right far more often than not. Certainly, there's nothing implausible about a product delay -- it's not like Engadget reported that Sinbad was dead or anything.


In his apology for the erroneous post, Engadget's Ryan Block says Engadget (a site that I enjoy and that we occasionally cite here at IT Business Edge) will work hard to gain back readers' trust, and basically all the things you expect from such an apology.


You won't see much evidence of broken trust in the thread that follows -- most readers are pretty supportive of the popular site. Others spend quite a few cycles pontificating that notoriously close-fisted Apple jeopardized $4 billion in its own market value to ferret out a leak -- yeah.


I often describe myself as an "information elitist," and my favorite comeback to folks who ramble on about Citizen Journalists is to ask: "When are you going to start seeing a Citizen Dentist?"


But clearly, blogs aren't going anywhere, and I don't necessarily think blog readers are "2.0" more gullible than the typical American -- we did, after all, believe Martians were invading Grovers Mill, N.J. They do seem awfully impatient, though.


And real differences in the old-line media sites and the blogosphere aren't as dramatic as Lam's truism would make it out to be -- all big newspapers have sites that they update as news breaks, well in advance of those cumbersome paper things hitting the streets. The real nightmare that blogs present for old-line media is not how quick and smart they are -- it's how incredibly cheap they are to launch and maintain.


I'd suggest that blog readers might want to add a few feeds to BusinessWeek and Reuters for their stock portfolio research, and for health care info and other issues where accuracy is absolutely key. But for everything else, blogs are clearly here to stay.

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