The Wall Street Journal publishes a Yahoo memo penned by Brad Garlinghouse and it took bloggers about an hour to start pondering conspiracy theories.
Among the questions summed up and raised by Donna Bogatin and a few hundred other bloggers:
How did the Journal get the memo?
Did Yahoo give it to them?
What were the motives behind the story and the memo?
Puhleeze. All of those questions are irrelevant and naive.
Here's how it works:
A) How did the Journal get the memo? The Journal got the memo because it's the business paper of record (and a damn good one at that). It's called reporting and brand credibility that has taken decades to build. If you're a CEO--or any exec--looking to float a memo you are going to the Journal. It's your first stop to reach the folks that control your market cap. Sorry new media, old media has clout.
B) Did Yahoo give the memo to the Journal? Of course it--or someone that knew the higher ups wouldn't mind--did. Journalists are used to float trial balloons all the time. Say you want to acquire an wacky startup like YouTube. What do you do? You go to the Journal with a story noting "talks are in the early stages and may unravel." Then you watch Wall Street's reaction. If the stock is flat to up a bit on the "news" you do the deal. If the stock falls 30 percent perhaps that acquisition isn't a good idea. This is standard practice. For instance, Microsoft internal memos don't get leaked. They get spoon-fed to key reporters with clout.
C) What were the motives? Every story you read has a motive. Yahoo's motive: Look like you are doing something--anything. Say you're Yahoo CEO Terry Semel and the peanut gallery is calling for your ouster. In Semel's position you can't look passive so maybe Yahoo determined it made sense to "leak" the memo to the Journal. Now before you run off yelling "Conspiracy!" this is called reporting. Yahoo wanted to see what would happen if it floated the idea of laying off a bunch of people. The Journal gets a good story and millions of in-bound links. That swap is a fair trade and standard operating procedure, but it sure isn't a conspiracy.