Earlier this year, Apple’s stock was taking a beating after multiple reports citing suppliers said it was cutting back its orders for the iPhone 5.
DigiTimes, a small tech industry newspaper from Taiwan, had the first report on the supply chain chatter in December. The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters, followed with their own report later, in January.
This wasn’t the first time DigiTimes had a juicy scoop about a major tech company, thus beating its better known competition.
DigiTimes was the first to report Microsoft was developing its own tablet. It was also one of the first to say Apple’s redesigned iPad would not launch this Spring. Further back, it predicted the iPad Mini’s design. It also accurately reported a high resolution screen for the iPad 3 in the Spring of 2012, and another version of the iPad in the Fall. At the time, its iPad 4 prediction was mocked.
Even though DigiTimes had the story on Apple first, no one really knew whether it was trustworthy. There’s a reason its iPad 4 prediction was laughed at.
Despite a steady stream of scoops, nobody really trusts DigiTimes. In part, it’s because nobody has ever met a DigiTimes reporter. In part, it’s because DigiTimes has gotten a lot of stuff wrong.
It appears to be getting better, and if it wanted, it could establish itself as a legitimate news source. The question that’s hard to answer, though: Is that what it wants? We emailed DigiTimes for an answer, and got no response. We’re not alone. The paper seems to rarely talk outside of its own pages.
“They’re hit and miss,” says one analyst we spoke with about DigiTimes who asked to remain nameless. “The hit rate is 50-50, which I think is kind of the design of their model.”
Joshua Topolsky, editor in chief of The Verge, one of the most widely read technology websites says of DigiTimes, “It’s a little bit shady. It’s definitely not reliable.”
Yet, The Verge, like many other tech sites still links to DigiTimes, and cites it, when it breaks big tech stories.
Topolsky says there is no set policy on linking to DigiTimes, but his reporters will only cover their stories if they’ve heard similar information from their own sources.
This is a standard practice for some tech blogs. Seth Weintraub, who runs the 9 to 5 network, which publishes blogs focused on Google and Apple, tells us, “We are extremely sceptical of Digitimes reports and will only report if they match up with something we’ve heard or is plausible.”
The reason they’re sceptical is that DigiTimes has gotten a lot of stuff wrong. Harry McCracken at Time magazine crushed DigiTimes last year with a story detailing its numerous inaccurate stories.
In response to McCracken’s story, DigiTimes deputy managing editor Joesph Chen reached out to explain why some stories to turn out wrong:
Digitimes has indeed reported much on Apple, and many of the products that we said would be launched have never been launched, or have had their launches delayed. But that does not mean that we were crying wolf or passing along gossip. In fact, Apple have a lot of its R&D projects and ideas tried out at its supply chain partners in Asia. Many of the prototypes created by the supply chain partners will never make it to the market after Apple’s assessments. This is one of the major reasons why a lot of the information we have disclosed has been seen by others as inaccurate, but is still valuable to our reader base in the supply chain. We understand the risks behind the kind of reporting we have been doing.
In the future we will implement even stricter requirements for verification of such stories. We will also add more analyses to such stories to provide readers with more valuable information.
It seems like it has improved. For instance, earlier this year the most plugged-in Apple reporters were teasing the idea that Apple would release a brand new iPad 5 in April. That didn’t happen. And at the same time the bloggers were teasing that information, DigiTimes reported it wouldn’t go into production until July.
Though it is largely considered a rumour mill, DigiTimes has the attention of everyone in the industry. Our analyst source says investors ask about DigiTimes stories, “but they tend to take them with a grain of salt.”
The strange thing about DigiTimes, though, is that nobody really knows much about it. We asked a few people in the tech industry on both the media and PR side if they’ve ever interacted with anyone from DigiTimes. None of them had.
DigiTimes is a really small site. Its “About” page says its English site gets only 300,000 visits per month. A really powerful scoop on Apple should be worth 300,000 visits on its own. A few scoops on Apple each month, like DigiTimes delivers, should result in a much bigger audience.
The fact that its audience is so tiny tells you a lot about the site.
“The information is rarely completely accurate, as it seems that they will literally publish anything that they hear,” says Matthew Panzarino, managing editor of The Next Web. “There are /kernels/ of truth there, but they’re obscured because the reports lack a framework of context or, you know, reporting. Using them as a source is simply irresponsible in most cases.”
A PR person for one of the companies DigiTimes writes about suggested to us that if the site really wanted, it could become huge.
Clearly, DigiTimes has some good sources in the supply chain that Western media just doesn’t have. Its more lax editorial standard lets it report more gossip.
If it could turn the dial ever so slightly to remove the totally egregious noise, DigiTimes could easily become one of the biggest, most influential tech sites in the world.
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