The big story across the web today is that Google is in talks to buy YouTube for $1.6 billion. Of course, there's been no real confirmation that the talks are actually occuring, or that Google's even interested in buying YouTube, but why should that matter? This story has unfolded in a rather curious way. It began with a reasonable post on the Techcrunch blog, titled "Completely Unsubstantiated Google/YouTube Rumor" -- which is fair enough, since it was pretty clear that this was nothing more than an unconfirmed rumor, and the author said he thought it was "40% likely to be at least partially true." There's no real problem, until that post turns into "Google Is in Talks to Buy YouTube" in the Wall Street Journal, with the only sources cited as the ever-present "person familiar with the matter" and the original blog post. But, if it's in the WSJ, it must be true, right? It's good enough for plenty of other big-name outlets to report the story as fact. Then, to complete the circle-jerk of manufactured legitimacy, a different writer on Techcrunch than the original poster says the rumor must be more than 40% true, since, after all, the WSJ reported it. Color us -- and other observers -- skeptical. The "person familiar with the matter" -- who could be anybody that read the original blog post -- the WSJ cited is probably the same person that told the same reporter last month that Yahoo was ready to drop $1 billion on Facebook, a deal we're still waiting on. All this ridiculousness is just the latest step in YouTube's implementation of the Skype billion-dollar buyout plan, which they've used before to drive their price into the billions of dollars and deflect attention away from the question of just how they plan to turn traffic into profits. So just getting one of your VCs to make up an inflated sale price is so old hat; now the plan calls for getting well-read blogs to publish unsubstantiated rumors (even if they're labeled as such), then let the mainstream financial press give the story legitimacy by association, and voila -- your company's now worth another billion. Not a bad morning's work, really, and much easier than actually developing a real business model. For all we know, it's all true. Google could be buying YouTube -- after all, when you use $400 shares of stock for toilet paper, what's $1.6 billion? But the evidence still seems a bit flimsy and we'd rather the discussion about the acquisition happen, you know, after the acquisition.
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