Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Everyone Is So Upset For Crime Victim Steve Jobs!

GIZAol. blogger Jeff Bercovici was totally unable to digest his dinner last night because he was SCANDALIZED and OUTRAGED about Gizmodo's "checkbook journalism" regarding the new iPhone. Sure, Gawker Media had already long-ago returned Steve Jobs' missing iPhone, but that would not settle his OUTRAGE. He writes: "Gawker Media brazenly, publicly flouted the law. It subsidized a crime: the selling of stolen merchandise. Then it published a misleading, whitewashed account of the seller's actions meant to make it look as though he was not acting with criminal intent. It published this account in order to disguise its own culpability in the matter." Oh mercy!

Slate actually handled this pretty well, however. And first, it's been well-explained why Gizmodo pointedly stated that they weren't ever quite sure this was a real next iPhone until Apple confirmed it with their request for a return: without being "sure" who the rightful owner is, well then, to whom are they supposed to return the property?

And Slate wrote, about Apple's options in light of trade secret law:

When it comes to the disclosure of trade secrets, it doesn't matter that Gizmodo bought the phone from a secondary source. Purchasing lost property isn't that different from purchasing stolen property in that what matters is whether the buyer knew (or should have known) that the item was obtained unlawfully. Gizmodo wouldn't have paid $5,000 for the device unless they suspected it was a valuable prototype…. At best, the company could try to recover some monetary damages from Gizmodo. They could recover the advertising revenues that the blog earned as a result of its scoop-that's more than 1 million hits in one hour on Monday-but that would be peanuts to the computing giant. They could raise the stakes by saying that their competitors are now racing to copy the new features, and the disclosure will result in a significant loss of sales. If a court bought that argument, the damages might be so large that Gawker Media (which owns Gizmodo) wouldn't be able to afford to pay.

And then Slate goes crazy in the last sentence:

If a court bought that argument, the damages might be so large that Gawker Media (which owns Gizmodo) wouldn't be able to afford to pay. Apple sold more than $4 billion worth of iPhones last year. Gawker Media is worth $170 million in total.

That is so weird that they just totally invented a valuation of a private company!

Bercovici also goes crazy at the end.

In those rare cases where a journalist commits a crime and receives the benefit of prosecutorial discretion, it's usually because he can demonstrate there was a compelling public interest at stake. There is no such interest here. The only parties who benefited from Gizmodo's story are Gawker Media and Apple's competitors.

I don't think anyone will be asking for "prosecutorial discretion" here but that seems to me to be true for any piece of journalism, no matter how down and dirty, that offends institutions. Replace "Apple" with "Halliburton" and "Gawker Media" with the "Washington Post," for a hypothetical story of the same circumstances that might be viewed in a different light. Is unveiling a prototype of a silly new gadget life-changing reporting? Not really, at all! But it sure does have news value.

25 Comments / Post A Comment

I don't know the html that would let me draw a Venn Diagram of "insidery" and "meta-enabling," but this article would be right in the wet spot where they overlap. And I would still love it!

deepomega (#1,720)

I still want Apple to sue, just to give the Gizmodistas the worst case of cognitive dissonance ever.

roboloki (#1,724)

steve jobs implanted a microchip in my scrotal-rectum area.

But Jonathan Ive designed it, so your taint looks amazing?

My taint has USB.

Publicity for all.

Also, AOL? The CD-ROM company?

Matt (#26)

It's Aol. They've rebranded. The dot is part of their brand. Like S. Carter.

That is hilarious.

doubled277 (#2,783)

Too cool for ALL CAPS!!

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Oh really, their competitors are "racing to copy the new features" like "a better camera" and "flat on the back instead of curved"? No wonder Apple is renowned as such a paragon of inventiveness!

Art Yucko (#1,321)

yeah- terribly original ideas, all.

Slava (#216)

I'm gonna go ahead and be willing to bet money that dozens of companies right now are figuring out how to mount a camera on to the front of their phones for some video conferencing.

This is going to be Infinite Jest all over again…

riggssm (#760)

$170 million? Couple a few too many zeros, isn't there?

Ken Ng (#4,501)

Why would any one be "upset" over this? This has become a FREE marketing campaign for Apple.
Only idiots with no business sense think that this would jeopardize the product.

Rod T (#33)

My favorite is the tinhatted commented that posted on my blurb of this saying it was a marketing ploy set up between Denton and Jobs.

A thought that popped to mind while reading the Slate piece earlier and again now: if Gawker Media disappeared, what would the net ramifications be? All I could really think of was having to do some edits on Reader. It's not like when you lose an MSM resource that does real reporting. Some other aggregator could take its place.

As for News Value? That an improved iPhone would at some point be released isn't news, merely confirmation of the inevitable. Otherwise the addition of Purple Horseshoes (or somesuch) to Lucky Charms is also news.

HiredGoons (#603)

It's a fucking phone. Jeeeeeesus.

WellThen (#1,251)

But…can we agree that the story of the dude who found the phone, and which Gawker published on Gizmodo as though it was totally reasonable, sounds like complete bullshit? The bar is asking why he didn't take the phone back there if he wanted to return it while I'm thinking "Why the hell would he leave the bar with the phone in his possession IN THE FIRST PLACE." Gah. So I guess I think Bercovici sorta has a point.

BadUncle (#153)

FWIW, you can apply standard valuations to private companies based on their stated revenue (particularly if those revenues are ad-based). The formulai are loosely principled upon the words "monetize," "verticals," and "ear-balls."

Also, why is jobs squealing like a little 9-year-old ballerina? Grow a sack, dude.

BadUncle (#153)

"Jobs." / Fixed

(Choire, when's that edit button coming in?)

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

I can't understand how anyone can discuss this and be outraged but ignore the fact that Nick Denton decided to destroy the career and reputation of a poor schmoe who lost the thing to begin with AFTER they got tons of page-views for the original piece.

I could care less about tech gadget wankering, but outing the guy is just a real new low. Really a disgusting move Gawker.

Jeff Bercovici (#4,514)

"Gizmodo pointedly stated that they weren't ever quite sure this was a real next iPhone until Apple confirmed it with their request for a return: without being 'sure' who the rightful owner is, well then, to whom are they supposed to return the property?"

They weren't "supposed to" return the property to anyone. They weren't supposed to buy it in the first place without establishing that the seller had the right to sell it. That's not my opinion. That is actually the law! Silly that there would be a law against buying what you have reasonable grounds to suspect are stolen goods, right?

bassknives (#2,903)

Either it's news in which case the Pentagon Papers precedent applies, or it's marketing, in which case everyone who reviews gadgets should also mention what the manufacturer's ass tastes like when reviewing a gadget.

It has to be okay to bite the hand that feeds every once in a while just to keep the public clear that journalism is being attempted. Apple can go back to telling everyone what they can and can't do while making shitloads of money
tomorrow. They'll be okay, I promise.

rleroygordon (#4,558)

Okay, so lessee if I got this right. Gizmodo pays $5,000 (Five Thousand Dollars), more than my wife and I make at our jobs in two months, for a supposed iPhone prototype, but they weren't sure it was a real iPhone prototype. So why the flock did they pay that much? And why did they post photos of the little thingie?

Anybody else seeing the BS in the entire case?

What I find really pathetic about the general attitude, not only of the blogger, but of many of the folks making comments on this page, is the sense I get that so what? Big bad Apple deserves to get some grief–they're billionaires.

And? It's Apple's property. Gizmodo suspected that Apple didn't want the public getting their hands on the device, but published photos of it anyway. Now, they feel they shouldn't face penalties? Puh-leeze!

Personally, I don't give a rat's if they lose everything.

Joseph Ahern (#4,566)

Nobody disagrees with you that Gizmodo's actions were, to say the least, "questionable". The law aside, which should apply to everyone, you can't deny this is a lot of free publicity for Apple. I've yet to find a reason that this should turn sour for Apple. The more they complain, the more I dislike them and even then, I'll still buy their silly contraption.

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