Apple and velocity of information

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Late UK time on August 24, 2011 Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, but stayed on as chairman. I heard about it when an email from David Farber to the Interesting People email list dropped into my inbox at 23:48 UK time – this claimed that the news had gone on AP.
I checked Twitter looking for links to verifiable sources and found coverage from Fortune, CNN and the Wall Street Journal, but it wasn’t until 00:10 the following day (UK time) that the news went live on Apple’s own website news room. Giving me a good 20 minutes to try and work out if the mainstream media had been punkd.
I was surprised by this 20-minute window for a number of reasons:

  • The SEC is very hot on how investors are informed and this was definite ‘move the share price’ news. Most of the mainstream media had pieces written before Apple could get this news on the website – Apple had run-ins with the SEC before on share option pricing so this could be a sticky issue. Few if any of the media coverage linked to the BusinessWire content which I suspect was the likely source so small investors could be left high and dry
  • There wasn’t anything for investors to validate the news against
  • It implied that Apple’s PR team were uncharacteristically not in control of the news agenda; in fact both social media users and the mainstream media were far more nimble than Katie Cotton’s team
  • It showed that the information velocity of social media was far faster than Apple’s corporate communications structures, which is a warning as to how vulnerable Apple would be in responding to a social media driven reputational crisis

More information

Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple – Apple Press Info
Fallen Apple: Steve Jobs resigns – Fortune
Steve Jobs Resigns as Apple CEO – Wall Street Journal