26 July 2007

Holding the Observer to account (again)

Back last year, the (Sunday) Observer newspaper - sister to the Guardian - ran a truly amazing full-page article entitled "Why the iPod is losing its cool" by David Smith, supposed technology correspondent.

In this article, Mr Smith, claimed that
Sales are declining at an unprecedented rate. Industry experts talk of a 'backlash' and of the iPod 'wilting away before our eyes'

This article was written as a factual piece not an opinion piece. I made mention of it in this blog post, but decided not to attack it then. After all, perhaps David knew something I didn't and that iPod sales WERE in freefall?

I further chose not to comment on it after Apple's first quarterly announcement post the Smith article when they demonstrated once again iPod sales had risen 35% over the previous year. I again avoided the urge to comment after the December quarter when sales rose an astonishing 50% over the previous year (a year when both the iPod video and iPod nano had been introduced to much acclaim). I chose not to comment on it after Apple's Q2 announcement in April, when sales were up 24%. But now, a full 4 quarters of reporting has passed, and really, I can't let it sit any longer.

In the quarter just gone, iPod sales were up again - 21% in fact over the same quarter last year. In that 12 months, Apple's iPod sales were 35% up on the previous year. In that last year, Apple has sold over 50million iPods which represent 47% of all iPods ever sold. In other words, Apple has in the last 12 months sold just about as many iPods as it did in the previous 5 years COMBINED. Furthermore, in the iPod's history, it has never suffered a sales decline on a year-over-year basis on any measurable financial quarter.

That doesn't sound like a product that is either "losing its cool" or suffering from "declining sales at an unprecedented rate". I haven't seen too many analysts dissing the iPod either (though there's always a few media boys).

What was the reason for Mr Smith's article? Was it to try to create a backlash? Was it influenced by another company about to launch a product? Was he hoping to be able to claim when a possible iPod decline came along that he was first? Or was it just absolute stupidity and ignorance?

Would Mr Smith or the Observer like to apologise and to admit they have been wildly wrong? Would they care to write a similar full page article gushing about the apparently unstoppable iPod phenomenon? Given how the Observer can not even bring itself to apologise about a life and death issue it has got blatantly wrong, I'm not holding my breath.

(I'd like to think there ISN'T a conspiracy here and that it is plain ignorance. I suspect Mr Smith used two sequential quarters of iPods sold to point to a decline. That's a pretty poor way to use statistics that surely anyone at school is taught about. It was also an "unprecedented rate of decline" because there had never been a decline (and there still hasn't unless you believe consumer products exhibit no seasonality).

How about owning up, David, and saying you were absolutely and completely wrong? Or are you going to try getting the same message out again in the hope that at SOME point in the future, you will actually be right?

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