Tuesday Grok: Read, Fire, Aim – Bruce Willis suing Apple story all wrong

Bruce Willis is not suing Apple, but Google has already spidered this story — thanks advertisers.

Hey Google, if I scream ‘Bruce Willis’, ‘dead’, ‘iTunes’ and ‘scam’ will you show me some love? How many millions of page impression is that worth and what’s the yield? So what if it ain’t right, you can’t take credibility to the bank (even if you can take your iTunes account to the grave).

The blogosphere and the wider media worked itself into a bit of a mess over the last day or so over a story suggesting Bruce Willis was planning on suing Apple for the right to pass on his iTunes collection to his daughters. It would have been a worthy story, if only it was true.

As the <i>Guardian</i> noted in a blog this morning, “On hearing the ‘news’ that Bruce Willis (you know, the film star) was going to hurtle into Apple's lift shafts (even if it doesn't have any — does it have any? Anyhow) and intended to sue the company so that he could leave his iTunes collection to his children, what did the world’s news organisations do? Ask Bruce Willis? Ask his agent? Nah. Why bother with that when you can just repeat the story? Much easier just to rewrite, rephrase and repeat. Pretty much everyone seems to have done this. (Yes, yes. The Guardian too.)”

Here’s a couple of examples of media outlets getting it hopelessly wrong and looking stupid.

The story started on a British tabloid (that should have rung alarm bells right there) and rather than check anything like a fact — because that’s so media 1.0 — the retweeters just went nutso and the story took on a life of its own.

Eventually, Willis' wife came out of the ether to kill the story dead — which of course just gave everyone the chance to flog it along a little bit further. After all, “Undead celebrity to sue Apple — a scam!” pretty much ticks every box in modern day online media. All we need now is a photo gallery.

<i>Techcrunch</i> , another of the media outlets to fall into the trap, did a pretty good job wrapping it up after the event.

And still the serious question remains unresolved — who owns your digital stuff when you’re dead? Long before Bruce Willis did not up and die and did not sue Apple for the right to pass on his iTunes account to his daughters, Time Magazine had already posed the question — as early as 2009. You can read the original — “What happens to your Facebook after you die” — here.

The Sydney Morning Herald published an article on the Bruce Willis story that appeared as leading story on its home page this afternoon, almost 12 hours after it was debunked. Even though SMH knew the story was wrong, it continued to display the story on its home page in its shameless pursuit of page inventory at any cost — including its own credibility.

The war goes on

Mobility and tablets have dominated the screen space of industry debate over the last 12 months — from endless rumours about iPhone 5 features, to the ongoing war between Apple and Samsung, to speculation about Facebook phones and all the rest.

<i>Business Insider</i> leads this morning with an overview of the current state of the tablet war which it describes as the “full grown battle for the future of computing”. BI provides a (very short) slide show on each of the competitors.

The article makes the point that of the four main protagonists in the space — Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft — only one has any history as a PC maker. BI doesn’t say which one but maybe it means Apple, although purists and fanboys might consider that insulting. And Microsoft might reasonably argue that it knows a thing or two about personal computing. Likewise, Samsung which manufactures them.

So really, only Amazon is the newbie.

Fact checking indeed.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.

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