Who Needs The Truth When We Can All Just Point At Each Other?

from the well-they-said-it dept

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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Comments on “Who Needs The Truth When We Can All Just Point At Each Other?”

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28 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: wait...

Have you used google video and compared it to youtube. they are differant approaches. YouTube’s amount of video is much larger. A more comprable “completely unsubstantiated rumor” would be that Intel, the largest manufacturer of microprocessors is in talks to buy Cyrix. Although I would pay 3.2 million for it.

The Man says:

This is what happens

This is what happens when the mainstream media gives equal respect to blogs. They should be smart enough to know that bloggers are just wantabe hacks that have no sources, new information or talent, but want some sort of notiarity. This should be from the just because it is on the internet you know its not true department.

lil'bit says:

Re: This is what happens

The problem is not equal respect, many bloggers do make an effort to cite sources and research “facts” presented. I don’t consider anything on a blog to be accurate unless sources are cited – but I use the same criteria when reading the newspaper or books.

The problem is whatever happened to the idea that anything published should be corrobrated by 3 independent sources. Remember in “All the President’s Men”? They made Woodward and Bernstein get at least one, if not two, independent corrobrating sources before the Washington Post would publish a story. That should be the standard whether reporting on the President or a local convenience store robbery

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is what happens

The only “blogs” that I’ve ever known to be good sources of new information, each site truly with some of its own unique sources and methods, are computer hardware sites. And I really struggle to call them blogs, because blog sounds like something that happens in a bathroom and because HardOCP, Anandtech, Bit-Tech, PCPerspective and others were around long before “blog” was coined.

Most tech “blogs” are little different than those old-school hardware sites, except they have no/few ‘reviews’ and focus entirely on commenting on news items or press releases. IE, DailyTech to Anandtech, and so on.

But when random blogs come up with rumors, and the blogger doesn’t have the rep of those old sites, everyone, especially WSJ, should take it all with a huge pallet of salt.

Anonymous Coward says:

wait...

and mcdonalds compared to burger king has a different inside, different fries, different burger, etc… again… since google has google video WHY would they buy youtube when if they wanted features that youtube has they could simply add them. if mcdonalds wanted fries like burger king’s they could start making theirs like them.

Solo says:

$1.6b you say? I was looking for a way to relieve my tax pressure. Let me buy a business without a business plan, with huge storage and bandwith requirement, whose success is based solely on providing free hosting to teenagers.

1. provide infinite hosting of video, free distribution, free embedding in 3rd party websites, unlimited everything for free.
2. …
3. profit!

Brilliant I tell you!

Fox McCloud (user link) says:

What if...

Let’s assume for a moment that this isn’t a conspiracy by YouTube. Let’s assume that the blog poster simply wanted to know weather Google (or anyone else) was interested in buying Google. What better way to determine if it’s true than to spread a rumor that it’s true, and then see if either one denies it?

Think about it. If I was to tell you (to use everyone else’s example) that McDonald’s was going to buy out Burger King for $400 million, and then the WSJ or whoever ran the story and it got a lot of play on CNBC, one of three things would happen:

1) McDonalds would deny it
2) Burger king would deny it
3) We’d have a deal signed towards the end of the day

That’s how it is. If a person spreads such a rumor and actually gets a lot of media attention, then usually the subject of the rumor will either confirm or deny it. What suprises me is that neither Google or YouTube has denied this, which seems to suggest they might actually be in talks. Usually if a company doesn’t come out and deny a rumor (or file a “shut up” lawsuit like apple does) it means the rumor is true.

Think of it like me making a rumor that brad pitt was hooking back up with jennifer anniston. Either anniston’s PR person or brad’s PR person would have released a response by the end of the day, but at the end of the day I’d know (with some deal of certainty) that they were still broken up. In effect, spreading a rumor that you don’t believe is true anyway is a good way to be sure it’s not.

In the print media this doesn’t work. If I’m a reporter at the new york times and I report that I think bran and anniston are getting back together, and have no proof at all, I’d be cleaning out my desk by 3 that afternoon. However, for bloggers, this tactic works fine because they have no accountability. So what if it’s a total lie? Worst case scenario Google might shut down his blog. It’s not like it’ll cost the blogger his job, whereas for other media it usually does.

Now, a more likely scenario is if this man at the WSJ simply wanted to squeeze an answer out of Google/YouTube. He could pay a blogger to post the rumor (which he then in turn cites) and see if google/youtube denies it. Worst case, he had a bad source. Best case, he’s got a huge scoop. Either way, he doesn’t lose too badly.

For that matter, the WSJ reporter could make a blog himself under another (fake) name and make the rumor himself, then cite his own rumor that way. The possabilities are somewhat endless.

Still, what shocks me is that we have no real word about this from Google or YouTube (at least not that I’ve seen, having only read my Techdirt and Engadget RSS feeds all day) which suggests maybe this rumor has some level of merit.

Cleverboy (user link) says:

Re: What if...

Usually if a company doesn’t come out and deny a rumor (or file a “shut up” lawsuit like apple does) it means the rumor is true.

I believe you’re referring to the “STFU lawsuit” category. Expletive included. Personally, I like the metaphor of trying to observe sub-atomic particles in a method the does not alter that which you are observing. –It’s pretty hard to do sometimes. I like that National Public Radio puts out a show called “On the Media”. At first, I scoffed and said, “Media talking about itself??? Now we’ve hit a new low!”

Then… after listening to the show, it becomes all too clear how useful it is to examine the methods and venues by which we examine reality. With such importance paid to “breaking” a story, and the subsequent excitement of people feeling like they’re on the cutting edge… its tough to determine the “truth” factor.

I found the recent article on “How accurate is Think Secret…” to be highly interesting, especially on this topic. It’s a little sad when these rumor blogs begin to read like bad fortune tellers. I think I’m seeing a new iPod… yes… yes… and its white, and it plays video… and… its got new features… yes… yes, definitely new features…

John Edwards: Welcome to “Crossing Over”. Before we begin, I must stress again the importance of remembering the details that come from these sessions. Specifically, the things that don’t seem to make sense at first. It’s imperative that you remember everything I say. Okay. I think I’m ready. And.. I’m going over here.. in this direction.. right here. And someone over here, I’m getting a J. A J.. a woman with a J connection. Who’s got a woman with a J? [ no response ] Maybe K? K or J? A woman with a K or J. [ no response ] Or.. R? K, J, R.. or F.”

ImagineCasting (user link) says:

The way it ought to be...

McDonald’s should buy BK and Wendy’s. McD’s Burgers suck compared to BK’s, BK fries suck compared to anyone’s, and Wendy’s Frosty makes the others’ shakes taste like used enema fluid.

This megamerger would make the world a fast food utopia, and branding shouldn’t be too difficult since each has a mascot that appears to be a red-head, so they could easily pass as one big happy family.

Yeah, I’ll take fries with that…at any cost.

Cleverboy (user link) says:

I guess...

“–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”

This topic now seems a little awkward, considering post-confirmation, the weight of the story puts it on poor footing. I guess Google WAS in talks, and that the WSJ’s sources seem much more authoritative than one (Techdirt) might make them out to seem. Unless its an editorial, I wouldn’t think WSJ would cover baseless (keyword) speculation.

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