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Summary:

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but a former senior marketing manager at Apple posted an article today “confirming” that the company does indeed purposely leak information in order to amplify the buzz surrounding an upcoming product, or for any number of other reasons. The […]

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This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but a former senior marketing manager at Apple posted an article today “confirming” that the company does indeed purposely leak information in order to amplify the buzz surrounding an upcoming product, or for any number of other reasons. The ex-Apple employee in question, John Martellaro, wrote about the process in an article on The Mac Observer.

Citing specifically a piece that ran Monday (subscription required) in the Wall Street Journal, which claimed to confirm that the Apple tablet existed and would be announced in January and released in March, Martellaro talks about Apple’s use of “controlled leaks,” a process by which it is able to release information without hurting its reputation for never discussing pre-release products. Martellaro is in a very good position to know about what goes on, because he was himself told to do the same thing on multiple occasions.

Here’s how Martellaro describes the order coming down from on high:

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 key to a successful intentional leak is to ensure that deniability exists on all sides. Often, information floated in leaks isn’t final, and something about the product will change before production actually occurs, and if there’s no trail and no evidence to point to, both Apple and the news outlet are protected against claims of having disseminated false information. Official leaks are published after the close of the stock market to avoid accusations of stock manipulation.

Maybe most interesting about Martellaro’s inside look at Apple’s marketing machine is his list of reasons for fabricating a leak like this one:

Controlled leaks are almost always the solution to a problem. In this case, it could have been that Apple needed to release the tablet information early because it wanted:

  • to light a fire under a recalcitrant partner
  • to float the idea of the $1,000 price point and gauge reaction
  • to panic/confuse a potential competitor about whom Apple had some knowledge
  • to whet analyst and observer expectations to make sure the right kind and number of people show up at the (presumed) Jan. 26 event. Apple hates empty seats and demands SRO at these events.

Suspicions are one thing, but confirmation is another entirely. This look inside the extremely successful Apple information control mechanism is very helpful when it comes to sorting fact from fiction in the rumor mill.

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  1. Yet another misleading and inaccurate headline Darrell.

    – Leaks are sometimes intentional
    – Recent rumours about the Tablet *may* have been leaks.

    That is so very, very far from “Tablet Info Leaks Are Intentional” it’s just plain ridiculous that you put it in your headline. Classic yellow journalism from you (again!).

    Even if the rumours we have heard recently could be proven to be based in leaks (they actually can’t), you can’t say that these leaks are from Apple employees, and even if they were, you can’t say they were “intentional.” You are extrapolating a story out of nothing here just to make it seem like you have something new to say about this story, which has already been on several other websites.

    You grew up watching Fox right? :)

    Try taking a journalism class.

    1. This isn’t journalism.

      I am a journalist, and if I were to report on something like this at the station it would indeed be radically different. However, these people are not professional journalists, and this is not a journalism/news outlet, so you cannot expect the same standards (ethical, accuracy, ect…) to be presented in a journalistic way.

      That’s not to say this gives them the green light to be incorrect, but, rather, you cannot hold someone to a standard they aren’t obligated to hold themselves to.

      This is a blog.

  2. @ Gazoobee

    Do you still believe in Santa Claus too?

  3. Leaks are probably also the “payback” currency whereby a journalist is rewarded for spreading Apple-approved MISinformation like “Steve Job is totally healthy and was seen doing yoga on the campus today”. The journalist feels like a schmuck when the truth comes out. In exchange they could be compensated later with a leak of a true product launch.

    I’d have to do research about which journalists publish what and when to state this with any certainty, but that’s my guess.

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  5. Apfelmag.com ….read it! Friday, January 8, 2010

    Apples Ex-Marketing-Manager John Martellaro packt aus!…

    Apples Ex-Marketing-Manager John Martellaro erklärt in einem Artikel für die Kollegen von Mac Observer, wie Apple bei seiner einzigartigen Verkaufsstrategie vorgeht. Eine bestimmte Anzhal von Mitarbeitern bekommt eine Anweisung von Apples Führungskräft…

  6. i mentioned this strategy in a previous comment here. it’s not a surprise. it is great marketing though.

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