As we earlier this month mentioned, a U.S. television network has asked us to review for accuracy some of the facts it plans to report in a forthcoming program on digital newspaper editions. One problem the producer is having is that one of the vendors says that it has 152 newspapers as digital edition clients, but the vendor won’t disclose what newspapers. The producer (and anyone) can see that the vendor has only launched about a dozen newspapers’ digital editions. Should the producer believe the vendor’s claim.
While we’re sympathetic to the vendor’s confidentiality concerns, any company may claim to have many clients but claim confidentiality prevents listing who. The problem with that is the claimed number of clients might be true or false. As the English expression goes, ‘the proof is in the pudding.’ How many clients you actually have is how many you’ve actually launched or, at most, are willing to disclose. All other claims are merely public relations.
The situation reminds us of how in the mid-1980s, after he had launched the Macintosh to wild success, Steve Jobs was beseiged by people who claimed to be developing the next ‘New Thing’ for his consideration. ‘My new idea is genius!’ said one. ‘No, my idea is genius!’ said another. In response, Jobs simply and incisively remarked, ‘True genius ships’.
His point was that anyone can claim to have ingenious but undeveloped ideas, great products unlaunched, or many clients in secret development, but true genius resides in bringing things to verifiable fruition. A vendor might claim that it has secret contracts with 152 newspaper clients, but if the vendor has brought only a dozen newspapers’ digital editions to fruition (and isn’t willing to disclose more that might be in development), then objectively that vendor has only a dozen newspaper clients. Sorry, but all else are merely secret paperwork and unverifiable public relations. The TV producer should air just the number brought to fruition or that can be verified.