Monday, August 13, 2007

Cutting the wires

Last month Sun Microsystems announced the beginning of the end for the wire services by saying that they would use the Internet as their primary distribution channel for important news, with the wires carrying the news 15 minutes later. Their first major announcement to be handled this way was their quarterly earnings and it seems to have gone without a hitch. I can only guess how many other Fortune 500 companies are watching to see how this switch goes so that in time they can end the somewhat old fashioned notion of using a wire service to distribute news. In the age of the Internet and RSS feeds it does seem very strange to rely on a wire service but on closer examination there is an argument, albeit a rather flimsy one, to keep the wires in place, at least for now. The argument as I see it is simple - the Internet can be unreliable and isn't necessarily controlled by the person either sending or receiving information. This means messages can get hacked, blocked etc and who is then responsible? Add to this the fact that we know that some companies have CEOs that are prepared to do things that are less than 100% legal (witness the stock option back dating mess) and you realize that it would not be hard to conjure up the situation where company A's earnings release is blocked by company B's hired hackers. So while I for one fully expect the Internet to replace the wire services, I also suspect that the wires will continue to stay in business until such time that such issues can be fully overcome.