How The Apple Earnings Rumor Mill Works – And Who It Serves

As usual around this time in the quarter, the tech world waits with bated breath as Apple prepares to tell us Wednesday how it did that quarter. In the quiet period ahead of the report, the usual supply chain rumors and doomsaying speculation abound.

John Moltz has a good column at Macworld today that he must be tired of writing. He refers to the biggest rumor of this earnings cycle, an unnamed source from which two newspapers reported that Apple had cut orders for iPhone 5 screens, and he shows how the press reaction to that mysterious report follows a predictable pattern.

The press seizes on any number it can find that suggests any kind of change. It extrapolates from that number according to this formula: “See? Apple can’t keep doing exactly what it’s doing forever because its products will be commoditized. The company’s doom is inevitable!”

Moltz points out, as he and other Apple watchers have to do every couple of weeks, that this outlook always skips the part of the technology story about inventing new things. It is the ability to imagine the future that makes Apple Apple, and the lack of this ability that makes people into tech rumormongers.

He’s certainly right about that. But I wish Apple defenders in the press would be more upfront about admitting the deeper, more cynical truth about the rumor cycle. They’re the same over and over again because the media go with what works. The same battles raging every quarter are the sign of a perpetual media frenzy. But hey, it’s risky to poke holes in that illusion. What else would we write about?

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