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Tracking Rumors in the Blogosphere



The old school game of telephone has got nothing on the blogosphere.

Exhibit A: The current buzz over the rumors that Cuban leader Fidel Castro might be dead.

One of the earliest mentions I saw, was a question from a poster to the seriously anti-Castro Babalu Blog around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, citing a newspaper in Venezuela by way of Spanish news agency EFE. By 2:33 p.m., National Review Online columnist Jonah Goldberg has also floated the rumor, citing pals on Wall Street as a source.

By 4:30 p.m. or so, Wonkette weighed in with a much more official-sounding tale, citing buzz at OAS and noting that "the State Department is taking this seriously."

At this point, such buzz would usually begin to seep into the mainstream media, often through "blogosphere buzz" stories just like the post I'm crafting now. The benefit of such stories are, they can introduce the rumor to your audience without requiring you to verify it -- since you're talking about the rumor itself and its impact. Crafty, eh?

Funny thing: I'm not even seeing stories like that in big outlets yet, despite the fact that they must be aware of the rumors. Especially CNN, which even has a blog reporter during the midday hours and is known for floating reports early as possible -- it hasn't so much as mentioned this one, yet. Probably because it's a regular rumor which last surfaced about four months ago.

What is clear from surfing the many web sites which gather news regarding Cuba, that there are lots of spots in the blogosphere which will be cracking open magnums of champaign when this rumor finally becomes reality (those who are ad-suppoted must be digging the traffic boost which comes from circulation of something like this). And news agencies across the globe are now primed for any news on the subject, because its been percolating in the blogosphere.

Which means we're either primed to grab the news sooner than ever, or poised to make one of the biggest blunders in a while. Given my cynicism about modern media, you can guess where I'm coming down on this one.

Rocketboom Split Generates Massive Hype

How hot is former Rocketboom vlogger Amanda Congdon, now that she's completed a messy public split from the cheeky online TV show which birthed her underground fame?

Just the rumor that she might land at a new job is enough to send an avalanche of attention to a burgeoning web venture.

The latest recipient is trivia vlog 88Slide, which was reported to have signed a deal with Congdon , according to the Huffington Post. My first clue this was not the case: 88Slide creator and executive producer Noah Bonnett called me yesterday minutes after I sent an email query asking about the report (when he finally does sign her, he'll talk to the New York Times, Wash Post and three networks before returning my call).

Bottom line, Bonnett knows some of Congdon's new people, and is trying to get her signed to his site. But considering the massive hype which has followed Congdon's departure, I'm certain she'll land somewhere a little higher profile -- like, say, starring in a reality series or hosting a game show.

Reminds me of the heady days when the World Wide Web first debuted, when there were thousands of companies trying to make money in this new environment, and they all counted on slavish profiles in the mainstream press to bring an audience and impress potential investors. Journalists, trying hard to perch themselves on the edge of ever-shifting cultural moment,. were writing about anything with "www" in its title to stay on top of things.

Comforting to know that, as much as things change, in some ways they never do.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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