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The Inn Crowd

Rumor Has It . . .

Rumors on the web.

By Laura Tiffany

So, did you hear about the guy who broke the news of the release of Apple's Mac OS X on his Web site last year? Or how about the one who posted sketches of Starship Trooper bugs on his site before the film was released, and then posted the cease-and-desist order when Sony protested?

In a virtual world where a netizen from Nantucket can chat with a CEO anonymously at 3 a.m., rumors on the Web have become hot business. The Web has opened the gossip gates to anyone willing to spend hours combing chatrooms and e-mail for hot dish to post on anything from Hollywood (Harry Knowles of http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com fame posted the Starship Trooper sketches) to Washington (Matt Drudge, anyone?).

Mac rumor-monger Ryan Meader posts info on upcoming Mac systems which he culls from inside sources and readers on his site (http://www.macosrumors.com), sometimes with--and sometimes without--Apple's approval. Meader, 20, started Black Light Media in Portland, Maine, to run Mac OS Rumors and several other Web sites. When he launched the site two years ago, it averaged about 4,000 hits a day, but the number of visits skyrocketed when Meader scooped former Apple CEO Gilbert Amelio's resignation. Now the site averages 85,000 hits per day, and brings in thousands per month from advertisers like Byte magazine and even Apple itself.

Meader is quick to point out he always checks rumors against his own background information and is careful not to post anything decidedly anti-Apple. "It took a while for people to understand these things are [just] being considered," he says. "Apple is planning to do them, but may change its mind." Then why do so many people log on to read what are just rumors, anyway? Meader claims, "You can't get this information anywhere else."

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This article was originally published in the February 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Inn Crowd.

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