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:
- Like many sites, the Sun Sentinel runs links to popular stories as generated by user data trends.
- 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.
- Google crawled this list, and published the headline as a new news story.
- Bloomberg picked up the headline.
- 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.