Does the Press Manipulate the Market for More Page Views?

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Buried in a Google+ discussion about Microsoft’s prospects at making Windows Phone successful was the most remarkable statement. According to Robert Scoble, name-dropper extraordinaire*, the press “wants a strong #3” because it “makes for great fights, which makes for more page views.” He says he heard that from a number of mainstream journalists during dinner.

That’s a pretty heady charge, Mr. Scoble, that the press is manipulating their coverage in order to maximize their online popularity. It’s one thing to win page views by providing the best possible coverage. It would be another thing entirely to misreport the news in order to achieve a particular outcome in the market. The idea that the press is deliberately pumping up Windows 8 because they want it to be successful is simply an astounding notion.

I don’t know if this is a true charge or not. I often wonder myself if the press doesn’t own Apple stock and that this fact alone helps account for just how much positive press coverage that Apple receives. I have zero evidence to support this notion, however, and other than this one conversation, which constitutes hearsay, Scoble has presented no evidence to support his assertion either. It does point out just what’s wrong with technology “journalism” in general, however—it’s way too full of idle speculation, innuendo, and rumors reported and incessantly repeated as fact.

Perhaps this isn’t different from the media in general. Certainly, claims are made all the time that the press manipulates its coverage to get one person or another elected to public office. And those claims are probably correct, in many cases. So what do you think? Does the technology press manipulate their coverage to get its way?

*I’m not a fan of Robert Scoble. Throughout the years, I’ve noticed that he really loves to talk about all of the important people he hangs out with. I haven’t found him particularly astute at picking winners in the market—he seems to me to pretty much flow with popular opinion—and so this aspect of his “reporting” has always bugged me.

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