Paul Huizenga: New Corvettes and the Streisand Effect
They say even a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often, and that’s how I am – occasionally I manage to find a diamond in the rough, but I don’t always recognize it for what it is. Such was the case last week when I came across a somewhat-interesting video online.
The clip, which was posted by the Omega Tool Company, looked at first glance to be nothing more than a demonstration of how a Corvette bumper is designed and made. I looked at it, the freelancer assigned to the story looked at it, and we both assumed it was the current-generation C6 bumper based on the crossed flag logo and the exposed headlight cutouts.
Well, you probably know that it didn’t take very long for sharp-eyed readers to realize that the bumper in the video definitely wasn’t a C6 piece, and that it matched several details from Jalopnik’s rendering of what they claimed the 2014 Corvette would look like. The story got picked up by several other auto news outlets, and things rapidly snowballed.
Omega quickly pulled the video down off the web, but as everybody knows, the Internet is Forever – by then it was too late, and multiple copies of the ripped video were appearing on YouTube. After we got done kicking ourselves for not recognizing the pure news gold we had stumbled across, we started making inquiries with our contacts at GM to see if we had indeed found the production C7 bumper.
Not so much what was said as what wasn’t…
We decided that it wasn’t worth spending an editor’s annual salary just to prove a point.
What was interesting about the densely worded demands to take down the images and video was that Omega was alleging that the leak was “unauthorized” rather than accidental, and it wasn’t simply a case of copyright infringement – there were vital trade secrets at stake, and making them public through a website was tantamount to industrial espionage. Some intrepid journalists basically gave Omega’s lawyers the finger, asserting that the newsworthy nature of the video made it fair game, while others (including us) decided that it wasn’t worth spending an editor’s annual salary just to prove a point.
If it’s not what we think it is, why can’t we look at it?
Ironically, Omega’s vigorous attempts to suppress the coverage may have backfired; it was near-certain confirmation that the video did indeed show the C7 bumper, and it gave a story that would have burned itself out on the internet in a couple of days extra legs, and probably led to even more people seeing what they were trying to conceal.
That unintended consequence actually has a name – the “Streisand Effect,” named for the singer/actress whose attempt to prevent aerial photos of her Malibu mansion from being available on the web led to a hundred-fold increase in the number of people who saw them.
So, that’s the behind the scenes story of how we found a video of the 2014 Corvette’s nose being manufactured, didn’t realize what we had, got a bunch of links back from two dozen different websites, and then had to hide it all once again because we don’t have a dump truck full of money to spend proving that we’re right.
GM basically rolled their eyes, Omega went into a full panic mode (as befits a company that lives and dies on the contracts they get from the auto manufacturer), and we all got to see something a year or so ahead of time.
Of course, the video and screen shots are still available for your viewing pleasure on Jalopnik, so if you’re really interested in reverse-engineering Omega’s proprietary molding technology to make C7 bumpers in your garage or something, have at it.