How Apple uses the WSJ to plant “controlled leaks”

Wed, Jan 6, 2010

Featured, News, Rumors

It’s been assumed for some time now that Apple routinely uses the Wall Street Journal as a conduit for strategic “leaks” regarding company plans and any other type of information it wants to disseminate out into the public discourse.

Over the past few weeks, the noise regarding the mythical Apple Slate (or whatever it’s called) has been getting louder and louder, and a consistent source of the crumbs of information has been, surprise surprise, the WSJ. Also, if we go back a few months, remember that the WSJ was also the entity that first broke the story about Steve Jobs having undergone a liver transplant. At the time, those with a journalistic eye noted that the WSJ story about Jobs lacked a source, which prompted many to believe that the source was, in fact, Apple.

On that note, former Apple marketing manager John Martellaro recently penned a piece for The Mac Observer describing how Apple goes about planting controlled leaks.

Often Apple has a need to let information out, unofficially. The company has been doing that for years, and it helps preserve Apple’s consistent, official reputation for never talking about unreleased products. I know, because when I was a Senior Marketing Manager at Apple, I was instructed to do some controlled leaks.

The way it works is that a senior exec will come in and say, “We need to release this specific information. John, do you have a trusted friend at a major outlet? If so, call him/her and have a conversation. Idly mention this information and suggest that if it were published, that would be nice. No e-mails!”

The communication is always done in person or on the phone. Nevervia e-mail. That’s so that if there’s ever any dispute about what transpired, there’s no paper trail to contradict either party’s version of the story. Both sides can maintain plausible deniability and simply claim a misunderstanding. That protects Apple and the publication.

Martaellaro also describes how leaked stories from the WSJ often include 2 journalists so that each can point the finger at each other to explain away any problems that may result of a leak as a simple misunderstanding. Also interesting is that the timing of Apple’s leaks to the publication tend to occur late in the evening so that “no one could ever suggest there was any attempt to manipulate the stock market.”

The net result is that Apple gets the desired information published by a major Wall Street news outlet, but can always claim, if required, it was all an editorial misunderstanding. The WSJ is protected as well.

And so now you know.. and knowing is half the battle.



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