United Airlines Boeing 777-200 landingImage via Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, I published a post about a new term I think is important to our future — apomediation. This is the power of disinterested groups to affect the information economy. We just learned a great lesson in this, thanks to United Airlines, the Tribune Company‘s Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel paper (its web site), and Google.

The story goes like this:

  1. Like many sites, the Sun Sentinel runs links to popular stories as generated by user data trends.
  2. A story about United Airline’s 2002 bankruptcy surfaced in this “most popular” list on the site’s business section (via that site’s apomediation-powered services). Apparently, it didn’t carry any metadata about when the story was originally published.
  3. Google crawled this list, and published the headline as a new news story.
  4. Bloomberg picked up the headline.
  5. Investors saw this, sold off the stock, and UAL lost about $1 billion in value before the error was revealed (the stock subsequently recovered).

The media coverage of this has been quite good. It has led to an investigation. But I think what they’ll find is that it is a simple metadata error revealed on the Sun Sentinel site by apomediation, and compounded by the speed and power of broader apomediation. It was a two-fer.

If so, this means that nobody wanted to drive down UAL’s stock price, but misinformation moved so swiftly through the apomediated environment that $1 billion in value evaporated from a major airline’s books within hours.

Check your metadata. Your users are in control of your information. Google is a major source of apomediation. It feeds the authority online.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.