Everyone’s yammering about the amazing scoop that Gizmodo scored when it supposedly purchased an unreleased, next-gen iPhone from whoever “found” it in a bar. Most of the discussion is about the phone’s stats, industrial design, those “seams” and other technical bullshit.
What nobody seems to be covering is how Gizmodo was able to obtain the phone. This to me is a great example of the type of editorial flexibility that Gawker’s indie stance has bought it.
Here’s what I’m guessing the discussions sounded like at Engadget and Gawker.
The discussion at AOL (Engadget’s corporate parent): “Can we buy a potentially stolen phone from a shady dude who says he found it in a bar?”
AOL Lawyers, middle managers, corporate FUDders, etc.: “No. Well maybe. Fill out this form in triplicate and run it by legal and procurement and let’s talk about it next Monday when the group VP is back from volcano exile.”
Gizmodo editor: “Hi Nick. Blam here. Looks like Apple’s next phone is available… We want this scoop. What’s my max bid? And can you let the lawyers know?”
Nick: “I’ll get on it. Try to keep it in the low five digits. Keep me updated.” (Denton admitted here to “checkbook journalism.”)
Result: Gizmodo picks up the scoop of the year (so far) for a rumored $10k and is killing it in pageviews as a result. I’m sure the Engadget guys would have liked to buy the phone, but by the time they’d filled out a P.O. in triplicate for AOL higher-ups, Gawker had already obtained the phone.
Why did I break my long vow of laziness to post this? Well, this story really gets me going because I was stymied by AOL’s lack of budget support for our editorial efforts at Joystiq (back in 2005-2007 when I was involved). We repeatedly tried to secure top writing talent and great features, but AOL repeatedly failed to provide a meaningful budget for it. Maybe this iPhone thing will be a wake-up call. Or maybe (if the phone turns out to be stolen) it’ll simply put another arrow in the AOL legal team’s quiver. Even so, I like Gawker’s chutzpah.