For many months now, the world of online media, aka the "blogosphere" has been buzzing over rumors on the release of the iPhone. A product that has long been desired by fans of certain other small "i" branded devices.
Online speculation has existed for years about such a product; with a recent resurgence of interest in conceptual designs, rumored deals with manufacturers and wireless carriers, and examination of web site registrations, but with one or two seemingly significant pieces missing from the puzzle.
On December 14th, one such online media outlet made the startling prediction, that an announcement regarding the iPhone would be made on the following Monday. That prediction turned out to be true, but the actual announcement was predicated on a factor that few of us took fully into account... who the actual owner was of the Registered Trademark for "iPhone". That owner instead of the expected Apple Computer (NASDAQ: AAPL), turns out to be Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) by proxy of owning Infogear, a company who first trademarked the name as early as 1996.
When I read the news this morning a quote, sometimes attributed to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, came to mind: "Trust, but Verify". ...We should have seen this coming.
Many of us who are currently involved with online media can make the claim that we have been reporting on, or at least following, the trends of technology releases and brands since the early days of the Personal Computer.
I even remember that period during the mid-90s when it seemed that every company with a new product was trying to jump on the "i"-machine and "e"-device bandwagon. In hindsight, it would seem obvious to include the possibility that the "iphone" brand was probably already trademarked into account, for any analysis of the potential release of a new product using that name. Why then was this bit of information overlooked by so many who were otherwise dealing with up-to-the-minute details of every other online whisper? Because we were caught up in the buzz.
Of the bread and butter of online media, if content is the bread, then buzz is the spread. One of the strengths of a social news network is the speed at which new information and relevant detail can be added to an ongoing story, and a great deal of demand is placed on being the first to catch the wave of interest that such an addition can generate. Or to borrow the term used in traditional media, getting "the scoop" on the big story.
The rush to fuel that demand exposes a weakness in the exercise of another skill that is not carried over from older forms of media, a healthy sense of skepticism. It used to be the job of the fourth estate to not just report the news, but to raise the question of the accuracy of that news, and of the reporting itself. Over time we came to rely so much on the speed of new information; that we (as readers and reporters) fell out of the habit of questioning our sources and checking new leads. This recent news is a humbling example that getting the scoop does not always mean getting the story.
It is also an encouraging sign for our future growth, as our stumbles (and how we recover from them) are an indication of our development. While many may claim the explosion of social news sites to be the death of old media, it is somewhat reassuring to see that we still have much to learn as each site and service perfects their own brand and style of new media. What we learn from this event may play a significant role in how different online news sites are perceived into the new year.
Newsvine credit to kyleb and jsuplido for being among the first to post the news.