Looks like someone at Microsoft wasn’t that happy with Paul Thurrott. WinSuperSite’s preview of Office 12 appears to have disappeared – seems it’s not only Apple that believes in "trade secrets".
According to Jason Calacanis, Gizmodo sold out to Siemens pretty heavily. Engadget was offered the chance of an all-expenses paid trip to CeBit by Siemans marketing people in return for specific coverage of Siemans announcements at the show. Jason turned it down – but it appears from the suspiciously extensive coverage that Gizmodo is giving Siemans announcements that it didn’t.
This is pretty lousy on two levels. Of course, Gizmodo should not have accepted that trip. Although I’ve been on trips paid for by companies in the past, never has any company attempted to tie that to particular coverage. Although it must be tempting for a cash-strapped small publisher to take the trip, as it will mean getting a lot of coverage that you wouldn’t otherwise get, it’s not worth it in terms of ethics.
However, from a marketing perspective, what Siemens did stinks. As I mentioned, I’ve been on plenty of trips paid for by companies, to see new product in slightly more interesting places, but never in ten years did any company try to barter coverage for such a trip. Whoever made that offer should be taken to one side and told that (a) it’s unethical, and (b) it’ll rebound on both publication and company – as this case will undoubtedly prove.
Ironically, CeBit isn’t much of a temptation: it’s probably the world’s least enjoyable trade show, thanks to a combination of vast size, ridiculous accommodation crisis, and general travel nightmares. You couldn’t pay me to go!
Chuq Von Rospach posts his take on the Think Secret case in Teal Sunglasses: even more on thinksecret and Apple.
Some bloggers are doing journalism. Most of us aren’t. ThinkSecret is a lot closer to the National Enquirer than it is the New York Times, and I can’t remember the last time the Enquirer won a lawsuit by standing behind a Shield law.
I can’t see Chuq’s reasoning. Unlike The Enquirer, Think Secret doesn’t make up its stories – if it did, I doubt Apple would be suing it. Neither is he apparently aware of the way in which Think Secret works (I’d seriously suggest he read Nick Ciarelli’s declaration in support of the Anti-SLAPP motion that the site just filed, if he want’s to learn more). Moreover, Chuq appears blissfully unaware that what Nick does is in a long-standing tradition of investigative trade journalism.
In a posting on his blog entitled Is Apple Worth It? Mac journalism veteren Matthew Rothenberg comments on the Think Secret case. As a former MacWEEK’er, Matthew has a very good insight into the relationship between Apple and the media, and into what makes a good story. As he puts it:
No one has ever accused Apple of being too mouthy about its forthcoming products, and no one has ever provided me with a shred of evidence that advance word from Mac sites has reduced Apple sales by a single unit. Nor do I accept the canard that these reports comprise “trade secrets” by any reasonable definition of the phrase. Source code is a trade secret. A report that Apple will release a low-cost Mac the next week is not a trade secret.
This isn’t about the reasonable protection of intellectual property, to which Apple has every right. This is about Apple’s corporate mania for marketing control, which sadly gives the lie to the very corporate image it tries to market.
The definition of what is and is not a trade secret is the key element of the Think Secret case, if you ignore the absurd idea that Think Secret is not engaged in journalism, which is a nonsense of the highest order. If trade secrets means any information about future products, no matter how vague, then every trade magazine and news paper in the world might as well pack up shop and go home. It would open journalists like Mary Jo Foley, who I listened to in an interview this morning talking about Microsoft’s plans to run Linux on Windows, to a law suit every day of the week. It would shift the balance too far in the favour of corporations, and away from items that are of legitimate public interest.
A stripped down OS X, Inkwell technology, the size of an engorged mobile phone
I can’t see it. Not only is the market for PDAs getting hit very hard by smartphones, but smaller products tend to be niches, rather than mainstream – larger laptops have traditionally sold better than smaller ones, not least because of the price.
John Gruber (one of the best Mac-related commentators on the web) takes a look at the Think Secret case in Daring Fireball: If The New York Times Jumped Off a Bridge.
Contrary to Think Secret’s statement-as-fact that Apple never would have even “considered” filing suit against The New York Times, I think in fact the opposite is true. If The New York Times, or any other deep-pocketed mainstream publication, had published the same information, obtained in the same way, Apple might have been more likely to file suit than they were against Think Secret.
Sorry John, but this simply isn’t true. In ten years of being a reporter, I’ve covered lots of stories which included so-called "trade secrets", and not once in that time have I been sued (and only once did a company even threaten it). The reason was simple – I worked for companies that had deep pockets, and good legal teams. John’s old enough to remember back to the era of MacWEEK, which covered Apple in exactly the same way and, despite occasionally frosty relations with Apple, never ended up in court.