What you read in the news (and in blogs) isn't reality: An example

I scan a lot of technology weblogs, and it has been fascinating to see how the recent New York Times report on the hiring of Paul Mercer by Palm has been echoed all over the blogosphere. The story seems to have some sort of special iconic importance to a lot of people; they view it as a response to the iPhone, or as a milestone indicating trouble for Palm.

Paul's a good guy, he had a nice reputation at Apple, but it bewilders me that the Times picked up on that particular hire. There has been a ton of change in Palm's marketing and product marketing organization in the last year, starting long before the iPhone. Two of the leaders in the team left, and Palm recently hired Brodie Keast to run the whole thing (Brodie is a very senior, longtime veteran of Apple, Tivo, and a bunch of other places). Brodie reorganized marketing, some iconic Palm veterans have left (including Rob Haitani*), and Brodie has brought in some new people. There hasn't been a peep about any of that on the New York Times, or any blog I read. But Paul's hiring gets a ton of play.

We're told that blogs act as a supplement to the mainstream press, digging out the real stories and adding lots of missing detail. But sometimes the press and blogosphere together are just a big echo chamber. In this case, I think everybody has missed the real story, a longer-term changing of the guard at the company. Weird.

*That's what I was told by a Palm employee, but I haven't seen an official announcement, so please view it as a strong rumor until there's confirmation.


David Beers said...

I think it's kinda weird that the New York Times saw fit to publish this, but there's a very important reality that is reflected by the peculiar echoing in the blogosphere. That's the reality that Palm has been languishing in the shadow of its own reputation in recent years and that there is intense interest in how (or whether) it will be able to recover its former glory.

The thing about the blogosphere is that the truth that emerges from it isn't always the literal object of the blogger's preoccupation: it's the fact that they are preoccupied and the underlying reasons behind the preoccupation that often tell you the most.

I read the Mercer echoing as a sign of how many people would like to see Palm succeed, which says a lot about the strength of the Palm brand. There's a loyalty there--or at least a level of expectation--that is not unlike what Apple commands. People care what happens next and wonder how it will happen. It's also a sign that Hawkins' hint-dropping about Palm's impending new product class is working. The blogosphere has been primed by this buzz and is looking for clues to the future.

Michael Mace said...

I think you're right about the Palm story, David. I think the other factor working here is hypersensitivity to any story that's believed to be related to the iPhone. If Ed Colligan or Jim Balsillie sneezes funny tomorrow, someone's probably going to say the iPhone caused it.

Unknown said...

My read on it is that the 'news' was pitched to the press by Palm to generate some buzz off of iPhone. It's a smart move, iPhone is getting a lot of air play right now. Why not send out a message that they have hired someone who helped develop the iPhone at Apple?

Anonymous said...

That's because Paul Mercer actually designs products, which seems to be where Palm are struggling at the moment.
The marketing department always seemed to get too much of Palm's resources, and look where it got them?