Last night, following a week that has left me physically drained (and isn’t over yet; I’ve got outdoor, work-related stuff tonight and tomorrow), I collapsed in my chair and popped over to Facebook. Pretty much tops on my list–Facebook apparently having it wasn’t yet time to arbitrarily change my news feed from ‘most recent’ to ‘top stories’–was an article linked from a friend of mine:
REPORT: AMAZON TO BUY SIMON & SCHUSTER
The teaser below the header said, “The publishing world could be turned onto its head with a recent revelation that Amazon is in talks to purchase big 5 publisher Simon and Schuster.”
I immediately made a comment on the article, along the lines of “I don’t think that’s a good idea” or something like that. Not that it might not be a good idea for Amazon, or even Simon & Schuster. Something like that could be a boon to both companies (I’m not saying it is; I don’t know). The reason such a thing might be bad is because it would potentially further narrow choices for consumers and for authors, and I believe diversity and competition is better for everyone–including the corporations and companies. Anyway, I made my comment, then I clicked on the link and started reading the article.
Within a few paragraphs, I went back and deleted my original comment, and put on a new one, in which I said I would hold off until I did more research.
And then I reached the end of the article, and I was fairly disgusted.
There were two updates appended to the end of the article (though neither one had a time stamp). The first said ‘many sources’–and this was the first mention of any sources at all in the entire article, by the way–were claiming the discussions were about ebook pricing, though the author tried to debunk this. The second update, however, made it clear that the ‘negotiations’ were about ‘a number of issues’, mainly aimed at avoiding the sort of mess that Amazon and Hachette are mired in. Hmm. Seems reports of a purchase were way overblown, and were taken from an interview CBS President Les Moonves did with Fortune magazine recently (CBS owns Simon & Schuster). See this article at Publishers Weekly. There’s no fire here. There’s not even any smoke.
So, rather than yet another massive shakeup in the publishing world, it seems we were victimized by the following:
-an attention-grabbing headline
|Should make for some spectacular viewing|
-a ‘news’ story that was more analysis than fact-finding
-a failure to update the headline when the actual facts disputed the headline
In looking at the original article again, there is no investigation; the writer even says “no one seems to know what the discussions are about”. However, someone chose to put an attention-grabbing headline on the top of the ‘story’ in an effort to drive traffic. This is nothing new; newspapers and magazines have always screamed at us from the newsstands, anything to get you to pick it up and buy it. While this headline didn’t quite sink to the level of the Weekly World News, it was provocative, and I bet it got a lot of traffic. The lesson for the day: read all the way to the end, think about what you’re reading, and look for other sources. Have a great weekend.