Tonight’s upcoming Bush speech/plan/announcement on Iraq has got me thinking, as I always do before these things. Once again, everything that he will say has been revealed, days before the camera is even turned on. (And it’s certainly not a phenomenon limited to the Pres, but does seem more prevalent in politics.)
Compare that to Tuesday’s I-phone announcement by Steve Jobs. People had a pretty good idea he’d unveil a phone, though nobody knew for sure (that I know of), and nobody knew exactly what features and specs the proposed phone might have (that I know of).
The semi-secret information of the phone got a ton of free press once it was officially announced. The Bush speech will get free press because of the office, but with all the information already three days old, will it get any of the “Hey, look at that!” interest of the I-phone? The same can be said of Presidential candidates announcing that they will be announcing their candidacy sometime next week.
So the question is, why leak everything beforehand? Is it just to float the ideas out there and yank any that people hate from the official announcement? Or is there more to it?
Well, Steve Jobs obsession with secrecy is something that goes above and beyond anything else on Earth. And it serves his PR needs just right. And Apple is still small enough (at the top, at least) that you can still manage secrecy. The government is a big leaky boat and secrets go through so many hands that finding leakers is next to impossible (and thus more likely to leak). My WAG
Apple’s secrecy is effective as a PR tool simply because it is effective.
I don’t buy Sapo’s suggestion that it’s because Apple are too small to attract the attention. They are innovators, yet manage to keep these things behind all sorts of smokescreens.
On the other hand, governments have found ‘leaks’ to be highly effective for their situations. They can stimulate interest where they may be little, they can ration out bad news, they can ensure that the morning’s newspapers carry the same story as the rolling news channels at the same time.
There is always a tradeoff between secrecy/security and productivity. Many apple stores complain about not getting word about new products any earlier than the general public and how that affects their business but thats the price apple pays to have secret annoucements. The more people who know about something, the more work can be done but the more likely there is to be a leak.
I don’t buy it. It doesn’t affect the overall business. Check the prices on 30GB iPods if you don’t believe me. Apple have been an astonishing success where so many businesses have failed, in creating a corporate identity which can transfer from one market to another (“computers…hey, music players…and what about phones…”), and even more importantly isn’t geeky. Everyone knows what an iPod is, and that’s a HUGE achievement.
Part of this has involved these ‘reveal’ launches. And these are very hard to do. Very very hard. How do you keep something so secret for so long, when so many people are working on it? And presumably beta-testing it? And market-researching it?
In the case of Apple, lots of disinformation. They constantly feed false product designs and even go so far as to create fake prototypes of products that they’re not working on. With so much information out there, nobody knows what’s right and what’s nonsense. Apple rumor sites have been predicting a widescreen iPod for months (like this ) and people have known Apple was working on a phone since long before the disastrous Motorola ROKR. But I don’t think anybody seriously considered they were working on a combination device.
They have conducted leak investigations by exposing suspect employees each to a unique fake secret. The one that gets out is linked to the employee who blabbed, and he gets his ass fired and sued. This has happened more than once.
In the case of the White House, most of what you hear from “anonymous sources” is leaked on purpose. This allows the administration to gauge public reaction and the media response without tying the information to any one person or the President.
The OP may be mistaken if he/she assumes that the White House was trying to keep the speech top secret and that it was leaked against their wishes. I have been hearing political commentators today implying or outright stating that the leaks were essentially authorized trial balloons.
Another difference is that when the government has something it wants to keep secret, some people who are in on it may feel it is unethical, immoral, or illegal, and feel it is their duty to reveal it. Or they may have political or venal reasons for disclosure. Although there may be a price to pay if they’re caught, but they believe the benefits are worth the risk.
In the case of the iPhone and other similar secrets, most, if not all, of the people on the inside have a vested interest in the product’s success, and therefore in keeping the secrets. They very likely have signed non-disclosure agreements that provide for serious penalties if violated. On the other side, there probably isn’t much to be gained by revealing the secrets, morally or financially. (A possible exception is industrial espionage, but that wouldn’t result in a public disclosure.)
So in short, the two cases aren’t as similar as they might appear on the surface.
I would agree with all that has been said about the difference between Apple really trying to keep a secret and politicians deliberately leaking, but in terms of the situation in the final hours before the speech/announcement is made there is possibly another factor - the pressure on journalists to jump the gun.
As SnackFu says, both a political speech and a commercial announcement is quite likely to be given to the media prior its delivery with an embargo on when it can be used. This allows the journalists/commentators to sound incredibly wise and knowledgeable immediately after the event without having to wait to check background and polish their prose and gives the people making the press release a chance to influence the presentation (they will provide their own spin and background to the story and lazy journalists are quite likely to use it as is :rolleyes: ).
With a commercial announcement the media generally play ball - it is not worth the hassle of upsetting a future source (and someone who may well buy advertising space !) to get a few hours lead on a rival. With a political speech there is a lot more pressure to be first mixed up with political rivalries and the background assumption that there is going to be a deliberate leak. Politicos are also much less likely to take action against the media outlet - they are going to want their support in the future.