Gawker’s scoop on the next generation iPhone had everyone talking last week. From the blogosphere, to the nightly news, The View to David Letterman, the story was a hot item when it broke last Monday. Since then, the commotion has been as much about Gawker’s methods of obtaining the story as it has been about the upgrades to the next generation of the iPhone. If we’re honest, both topics are pretty interesting.
Lost: One iPhone 4G
The only reason Gawker even had the opportunity to buy this iPhone prototype is because it was lost in a bar in Redwood, California. It appears that this new generation will have both new and improved features from the most recent 3GS. There is a front-facing camera for video chat and a regular back-camera with a noticeably larger lens, and a camera flash. The new phone uses a Micro-Sim rather than the standard memory card and the screen– though smaller– appears to operate at a higher resolution. There are also metallic buttons for volume, mute and power, and an aluminum border around the entire phone. Although 3 grams heavier, the shape has been squared off and the back has been flattened. The battery is now 16% larger, which causes the internal components to be shrunken. No word yet on when the iPhone will hit the market or how much it will cost, but the official announcement is expected in June.
The Business of the Leak
Nick Denton, the man behind the Gawker network, is responsible for the media uproar because he paid $5000 for the phone, essentially buying the scoop for his Gizmodo tech blog. Including the legal fees, traffic bonuses for the writers and the cost of extra bandwidth on the network, the story actually cost around $20,000 according to Denton. For some perspective, the 3.6 million unique visitors who flocked to Gizmodo to read the story reportedly generated about $200,000 for Denton. In what could be the biggest signifier that the business is changing, Denton didn’t shy away from the allegations that he bought this news item; he spoke freely about his methods and claimed that it’s the hiding of the fact that some stories are bought that attacks the integrity of journalism, not the buying of those stories.
Implications for Future Coverage
Ratings helped make television a dominant medium for marketing and the ratings counterpart in the blogosphere, clicks, are what make the Internet a new medium for breaking news. The phone has become a sidebar in the greater debate: Is news becoming a commodity?
“It’s hardly surprising that Web journalists should be fast, competitive, ruthless, sensationalist– and willing to do most anything for the story,” Denton said in an interview with the New York Times.
After all, news is news, even on 24/7 cable networks. But the limits to that ruthlessness could be tested with criminal charges brought about by the local authorities investigating the “loss” of the phone and its sale to Gawker. The intrigue of this story goes far beyond the upgrades to the iPhone and will continue to unfold in the realms of Internet commerce, legality, and morality.