Last Year’s Apple Rumors? Mostly Bogus [Update]

Analysts and "supply chain" sources keep on getting it wrong.

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Jonathan Alcorn / Reuters

Black Friday shoppers walk past an Apple Store inside the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California November 29, 2013.

Thanks to Chris Rawson at TUAW, we now have a thorough body of evidence to prove that the majority of Apple rumors shouldn’t be trusted. (Or at least a significant number. See the update at the bottom of this piece.)

Rawson, apparently at the provocation of 9to5Mac editor Mark Gurman, combed through every 9to5Mac rumor post from 2013 to determine how many were accurate:

The tl;dr summary of 9to5 Mac’s 2013 track record:

  • 73 rumor articles turned out to be true, and 30 of those were derived from their original sources
  • 91 rumor articles turned out to be either partially or entirely inaccurate, or else completely unverifiable

That gives them an overall accuracy record of just under 45 percent. You’d do better by flipping a coin.

Although Rawson was settling a quarrel with 9to5Mac, there’s no need to pick on that particular publication. The practice of regurgitating rumors without skepticism from industry analysts, “supply chain sources” and the notoriously inaccurate DigiTimes is far too common among tech blogs. (To 9to5Mac’s credit, the site contributed mightily to the number of accurate Apple rumors last year with its own original reporting, but drowned out its stellar track record with all the bogus stuff from other sources.)

Here at TIME Tech, we like to occasionally remind you that Apple rumors can be pure nonsense, and treat most of them with skepticism. But we’re not infallible. For instance, I was too lenient on KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo because of his accurate track record in 2012. Rawson rightly shreds Kuo to pieces for a year full of crazy predictions. Kuo’s no longer looking much better than Peter Misek and Gene Munster, both of whom continue to get press despite a long history of being wrong.

So let this be a learning experience for us all as we head into 2014, a year that will surely bring even more inaccurate reporting about non-existent Apple products.

Update: Some have suggested that the results above are unfairly skewed because Rawson, by his own admission “wasn’t feeling particularly charitable” in his analysis. So I decided to take a more charitable approach and disregard any rumor posts that are simply unverifiable. For instance, some claims won’t be proven true or false until 2014 or later, or are murky claims about Apple supply inventory that will never be verified. Others are just opinion or speculation, which is separate from rumor in my view. I also found some posts that seemed true to me, but that Rawson declared false, such as those where 9to5Mac added some incorrect speculation, or where the general thrust of the post was correct with one minor incorrect detail.

Out of the posts originally declared false, my findings turned up 52 false rumors, 31 unverifiable or opinion pieces and 8 true ones. That brings the total to 81 true and 52 false, for an accuracy rating of 61.4 percent. That’s still not much better than flipping a coin, and continues to prove in general that random Apple rumors should not be trusted. But in this case, it’s not the majority.

2013 Rumor Retrospective: ‘All the leaks were…’ [TUAW]

17 comments
YngvarTheMean
YngvarTheMean

Does this mean we aren't getting the iPhone that floats?

evleaks
evleaks

Jared, did you actually read the source article, or just assume that John Gruber's summary was an accurate portrayal?


To wit, Chris Rawson -- the author of the article (the only one on TUAW to have ever turned off the comments prior to publication) described his methodology thusly:


"I wasn't feeling particularly charitable in my analysis of 9to5 Mac's track record...therefore, for any story that wasn't derived from their own sources...or any purely speculative posts, if any detail was ultimately incorrect or simply unverifiable, I counted the entire article as inaccurate."


You owe the entire 9to5Mac team a public apology for picking this up and rehashing a hit piece. For shame.

sixtymile
sixtymile

If you mean that you could determine which are true and which are false by a coin-fop, yes. But the content and commentary reveals information about Apple and perceptions about Apple that a coin-flip doesn't provide.

MikeTRose
MikeTRose

@evleaks  "the author of the article (the only one on TUAW to have ever turned off the comments prior to publication)" 


That assertion is incorrect. Comments on TUAW have been default-off for several months now, and are only turned ON at the discretion of the writer -- if you review posts from the past few weeks, you'll see that relatively few have comments activated.

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@sixtymile Except that too many sites just regurgitate rumors without context, or fail to apply enough skepticism when deciding which rumors are worth covering. Why, for instance, even bother parroting Gene Munster's Apple TV predictions when he's been proven wrong for years?

MikeBeas
MikeBeas

@MikeTRose  Regardless of the comments setting, the point still stands. Rawson's piece was irresponsible and factually inaccurate. His attempt to discredit Mark mostly relied on pointing to inaccuracies in rumors Mark did not start and simply reported on. Many of the articles listed as being "wrong" on Rawson's article were noted as being unlikely or outright wrong on 9to5, making 9to5's report actually *correct.*


If Rawson had focused solely on the rumors Mark referred to as being "all right," meaning Mark's original reporting on information from his own sources (NOT rumors noted as unlikely or wrong from outside publications), he would have come to the conclusion that literally all of the reports were in fact accurate. Gurman had a 100% track record for this year on original reporting. As pointed out above, Rawson even marked as "incorrect" any post in which the tiniest detail was inaccurate. I counted several posts on his list that were marked as being wrong which were actually entirely true.


@evleaks is correct here. TUAW published a shamefully inaccurate hit piece to settle a writer's personal vendetta against another writer who correctly claimed that his reports had been accurate. Any actual journalist would be above that.

evleaks
evleaks

@MikeTRose Apologies. I'd edit that out if I still could (although the fact that he chose to leave them off on a post so clearly in need of dialog, speaks volumes, I'd suggest).


Any thoughts on the actual gist of my criticism, i.e. that the methodology here was completely faulty and designed -- by admission -- to inflate the percentage of "inaccuracies"?

evleaks
evleaks

@MikeTRose @evleaks  I think you'll appreciate this -- it's quite topical. Here's an email reply from you in response to an Engadget warning about a bunk Apple rumor making the rounds:


"Thanks ____. We mulled it overnight, I tried to track down the tipster, discussed with leads, finally we crossed our fingers and ran with it. Guess I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue."

evleaks
evleaks

@MikeTRose @evleaks 


(P.S. We overlapped at WIN from late 2006 onwards. My inbox is filled with spam DIGG requests from you, regularly blasted to the entire Weblogs mailing list.)

evleaks
evleaks

@MikeTRose @evleaks  


"I have no particular ax to grind with 9to5."


"...my sincere, heartfelt admiration of the fine work and top-notch journalism that finds a home on the Internet at 9to5."


Sounds like a pretty sharp ax to me, Mike.

MikeTRose
MikeTRose

@evleaks When did you work for Engadget? Not sure we ever met.


Sarcasm, yes. Some annoyance that Chris's piece has turned into a reflection on our site's professionalism, when he was doing his best to be frank, open and clear about the work he did. And maybe a reflection of a common feeling in the Apple-centric blogosphere that there are some sites that are run by grownups, and others (successful ones) that are not. But just because I don't run rumors under my byline every day, that shouldn't lead you to the conclusion that I don't have industry sources, including at Apple.


"when you form such an asinine opinion based on nothing but your own misguided speculation" Didn't this thread start with you asserting something about TUAW -- specifically implying motive regarding Chris's post -- that was false? In any case, feel free to remove the "misguided speculation" from my sincere, heartfelt admiration of the fine work and top-notch journalism that finds a home on the Internet at 9to5. Bravo to all concerned.

MikeTRose
MikeTRose

@MikeBeas  "this piece—by its own admission—is fundamentally flawed in its assessment of Mark's writing (and the site's as a whole) by including posts that were never intended to be included in Mark's claim that all of his rumors were right, because they weren't his rumors."


Is Mark walling off his coverage from the entirety of what 9to5 publishes? If the site were markgurman.com that would make perfect sense, but that's not what it is. And Chris isn't arguing that Mark's reporting is flawed; he's arguing that the site runs both quality material and poorly sourced allegations under the same banner. If that's not clear from what he wrote, shame on us, but I read his post again and it's pretty clear to me.


And again, I think the commentary from John Gruber and from Jared is aligned with that messaging -- there is a difference between quality reporting and regurgitation of supply chain chatter, analyst agita and everything else out there.

evleaks
evleaks

@MikeTRose @MikeBeas   I stopped reading right here: "Nobody -- not Chris, not me, not Jared or TIME -- is disputing that Mark Gurman (with his editor Seth Weintraub) is the big swinging REDACTED of getting people inside Apple to risk their livelihoods and professional reputations by leaking product details to a website."


Ignoring the fact that it is dripping with sarcasm and clear distaste (and, let's face it, some jealousy too), this statement exposes the ignorance of someone on the outside looking in. I'm guessing you don't have any sources beyond those folks who send in tips, so you would naturally assume that all inside information must come from leakers at the company. I'm sorry that you don't understand how these things work, but when you form such an asinine opinion based on nothing but your own misguided speculation, you are making it clear why you and Chris are right at home at the same publication.


(Same goes for your editor, Victor, who was brave enough to okay this piece, apparently, but too cowardly to publicly defend it. When I worked for Engadget, TUAW used to be a site of record. No longer.)

MikeBeas
MikeBeas

Full disclosure on my part, I'm also an editor at 9to5. I have no beef with TUAW and prior to working for 9to5 actually had TUAW as my homepage. That doesn't change the fact that this piece—by its own admission—is fundamentally flawed in its assessment of Mark's writing (and the site's as a whole) by including posts that were never intended to be included in Mark's claim that all of his rumors were right, because they weren't his rumors.


The piece is just irresponsibly written and should have been stopped before going to press. Surely you can't deny that something this unprofessional has no place in this industry.

MikeTRose
MikeTRose

@MikeBeas Full disclosure: I am an editor and contributor at TUAW. I have no particular ax to grind with 9to5; while I've never met Mark in person, our online interactions have been mostly civil and/or semi-professional. I've met Seth several times.

MikeTRose
MikeTRose

@MikeBeas  @evleaks I think Chris was pretty clear about his methodology and the criteria he used for judging accuracy or inaccuracy, so I'm not going to rehash that here. I'm also not interested in turning Jared's post thread into a "TUAW vs. 9to5" grudge match, as this is Time's sandbox. 


"Gurman had a 100% track record for this year on original reporting." Yes, that's something Chris acknowledged clearly and repeatedly in his post; likewise, it was included in the excerpt on Daring Fireball. He called it "impressive," if memory serves, noted that Mark certainly has sources inside Apple, and suggested that if 9to5 stuck to stories that it could actually back up with reporting, he would pack up his tent. 


Nobody -- not Chris, not me, not Jared or TIME -- is disputing that Mark Gurman (with his editor Seth Weintraub) is the big swinging REDACTED of getting people inside Apple to risk their livelihoods and professional reputations by leaking product details to a website. If there were a physical trophy for King of All Rumors and they lived in the same hemisphere, I don't doubt Chris would gladly bestow it on Mark personally.

What Chris, Jared and John Gruber all have tried to point out is that a site that holds itself as the gold standard of Apple rumor reporting should not simultaneously be offering genuine Rolexes and cheap knockoffs under the same banner. Knowing that DigiTimes and most Apple equity analysts don't actually know anything, while running their speculations on a daily basis, is not compatible with a claim to be the one true source of good intel.

As to the supposed personal "feud" between Chris and Mark, I'm not privy to their conversations or their internal states of mind. All I know is that Chris owned up to his personal conflict with Mark and the degree to which Mark's behavior influenced his opinions and feelings about 9to5 *right there in the post that he wrote*, rather than hiding them from the reader. That seems like a good way to let people make up their own minds about possible bias, which both of you certainly have done. If Chris had written the same post without including that context, it would be a problem. He did acknowledge it, so now he gets slammed because he has "a personal beef" or grudge against 9to5 -- a grudge that would have gone well under the radar if he hadn't been honest about it. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.