Timing fishy on WSJ's Jobs story and Apple's Monday morning news

You've got to really hand it to Apple and the Wall Street Journal - they came in out of nowhere and threw Wall Street for a loop that left investors and analysts looking a bit bedazzled, as if they didn't know what had him them.Backtrack to late Friday night when the Journal sends out an alert for a news story about Steve Jobs having a liver transplant two months earlier in Tennessee.

You've got to really hand it to Apple and the Wall Street Journal - they came in out of nowhere and threw Wall Street for a loop that left investors and analysts looking a bit bedazzled, as if they didn't know what had him them.

Backtrack to late Friday night when the Journal sends out an alert for a news story about Steve Jobs having a liver transplant two months earlier in Tennessee. Had that story come out 24 hours earlier, Wall Street would have likely gone into some sort of tizzy the next morning.

Instead, the story sat there and resonated all weekend, leaving journalists scrambling to become overnight medical experts and build stories around something that neither Apple nor Jobs was confirming. Wall Street, meanwhile, sat and waited out the long 48 hours before the markets would open again.

Also see: Jobs recovering from liver transplant; re-ignites debate over privacy rights

And then, come Monday morning, just an hour before the market is set to open, Apple issues a press release announcing the iPhone 3G S's opening weekend numbers - 1 million units sold -  and, as an added bonus, a quote from CEO Steve Jobs, who apparently has returned to work.

You know that scene in the movies of Wall Street where frantic traders are waving their hands around and yelling "Buy" and "Sell" like crazy. That's what I envisioned happening on Monday morning when news of that release spread.

Also see: Apple thumbs nose at Palm, reports 1 million iPhone 3G S units sold in 3 days

Here they were, Wall Street traders ready to pounce on Apple after waiting all weekend. And it turns out that analysts were way off on their predictions for new iPhone 3G S sales - by a lot. The expectations had been somewhere in the range of 500,000 to 750,000 but no one expected 1 million, a match to last year's opening weekend for the iPhone 3G.

Huh? What? Liver transplant? Oh yeah, that... Right. Ummm. But, wait. Did you hear about the news this morning? A million new iPhones over the weekend. And it looks like Steve Jobs is back, too. What do we do now?

OK, maybe that's my lame attempt at trying to understand Wall Street. And maybe I'm reading too much into the day's chart of trading. But it drops early and then jumps up and down slightly pretty much the rest of the day. At the end, shares were down 1.5 percent, closing at $137.37.

As for the Wall Street Journal and that liver transplant story, I applaud the journalistic efforts that went into getting the story. But I also would have loved to have read some attribution along the lines of "..., the WSJ learned late Friday." I only say that because I can't help but wonder about the timing of that story and how well it played into Apple's buffering from Wall Street.

Did the Apple source cough up the info late in the day on Friday or did the source insist that the only way he/she would talk was if the story was held until Saturday's edition? I have respect for the Wall Street Journal but I also believe, as a journalist, in being as forth-coming as possible with readers to avoid any hints that there might be a conflict of interest at-hand. I guess what I really wanted to know was: why Saturday?

Traditionally, Saturday's newspapers tend to be one of the least read, especially for business stories. (Trust me on this. I spent the better part of this decade writing business stories for newspapers.) Even the tech blogs all slow down their coverage on the weekends. If you've got a real scoop, why not save it for Monday, again, especially for a business story?

It just feels a little too convenient and I can't help feeling that I may have been played a bit. I wonder if Wall Street feels the same way.

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