"iTunes Unlimited": Anatomy of a Mac rumor explosion

Take pity on the typing wretches of tech journalism! It's summer, known in the biz as the "silly season," when real news is scarce and fluff predominates. Political junkies have been entertaining themselves by texting fake messages from Barack Obama's campaign claiming to identify his VP choice (Walter Mondale?). If you want to give the tech writers something to do in an equivalent fashion, you can just send an anonymous note to the Mac rumor sites!

That's just what somebody did earlier this week, tipping off MacRumors.com, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, and MacDailyNews to the upcoming launch of "iTunes Unlimited," a subscription-based, all-you-can-eat version of the iTunes store. All three sites are bound by their Mac rumor site blood oath to let people know about any insane tidbit that comes their way, but they certainly didn't embrace the idea wholeheartedly: "Readers should note that anonymous submissions made to multiple rumor sites are generally false," MacRumors.com's arn says bluntly. That's over and above the fact that Steve Jobs has been openly dismissive about the concept in the past and it's flopped when others have tried it.

Yet that hasn't stopped a panoply of supposedly reputable news sources from throwing the story up, in their own blog section or even on the front page. At least most have maintained a shred of dignity by having the headline be about the rumors, not the supposed service ("iTunes Subscription Buzz Is Back," "iTunes Unlimited: music subscription rumor returns," "Rumored iTunes Music Subscription: $130 Per Year"), or at least putting a question mark in the headline ("All-you-can-eat music model from Apple’s iTunes?," "iTunes subscription service on the way?"). Even the British print media picked it up, despite the fact that the rumor explicitly has the store slated for a U.S.-only launch.

Your humble Inside The Cult blogger doesn't think there's much credence to this, and yet I've still managed to put out four paragraphs on it; it is the silly season, after all. And if it does turn out to be true, well, at least I can say that I covered it while it was still a rumor.

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