Oh, the irony hurts! This week, prominent smartphone leaker, Evan Blass, got upset and kicked a user out of his Patreon channel for sharing his 'premium content' on Slashleaks. Are we really entering an era where smartphone leaks can be monetized?
It brings me no great pleasure to admit this, but when Evan Blass announced he was launching a Patreon channel to share his now-infamous leaks for upcoming tech products - in particular, smartphones - there were more than a few raised eyebrows in our editorial office. This seemed to me like a situation that was only going to play out one way, and that's exactly what happened.
When Blass realized Nils Ahrensmeier was posting his Patreon content on Slackleaks, he was swiftly banned from subscribing. Ahrensmeier was leaking the leaks to another leaker site, and that seemingly goes against everything in the leakers' code of conduct. Slashleaks has agreed to delete leaks sourced from Blass' Patreon, but this is not going to be the end of the story. And thus, we find ourselves in a mess.
Okay, he doesn't liked it. pic.twitter.com/Vs5u7NPaE6— Nils Ahrensmeier (@NilsAhrDE) April 1, 2020
The issue here not about the act of sharing paid content from Patreon, I think everyone is happy to accept that this is shitty practice, but we're not talking about sharing the work of original content creators here. The content leakers publish is often stolen (or at the very least 'creatively acquired') in the first place, and it's here where I think questions need to be asked. In a comment under one of our German articles, Fabian Nappenbach, Director Product Marketing at HTC, described leakers as "simply thieves - they steal information that doesn't belong to them and sell it for money". So should we feel sorry for Blass and co. when their Patreon content ends up jumping the paywall without permission? As middlemen, do leakers actually have anything to sell?
Selling stolen goods: the monetization of smartphone leaks
In my opinion, there are patterns in the career path of a social media smartphone leaker. At first, leakers tend to be in it for the attention, for the fame, or the followers. At some point, however, the buzz from retweets, likes, and mentions in tech publications starts to wear off. New ideas begin to shape. With a large following, there is money to be made, isn't there?
I have no problem with leakers trying to monetize their Twitter accounts. If readers want to pay $1 a month (Blass charges $10 a month for publications) to have access to what they used to get for free, then I certainly won't be losing any sleep over it. Good luck to them! But I can appreciate the irony in the current situation we have found ourselves in, where leaks are also now leaked.
It's worth addressing at this point the well-publicized conspiracy that it is the manufacturers themselves that are behind most of the leaks we see in tech media today. Ask any manufacturer and they will deny this profusely. Some have taken an 'if you can't beat them, join them' approach like Google, which now teases its smartphones well before they are announced, as we saw in the build-up to the launch of the Google Pixel 4. The truth is that no manufacturer can really control the message before an upcoming product launch these days. It's one of the reasons why launch events have become such an anticlimax.
It feels to me like we are at a crossroads in this industry. I for one am in favor of going down the road of official teasers, genuinely exciting launch events, and less pandering to the leakers. For a lot of media outlets, however, it is a Catch-22 situation. Leaks are addictive. They drive traffic, and everyone has got bills to pay.
As the famous saying goes: you get the media you deserve. Never has this been more true than today.
We reached out to Evan Blass for comment, but he politely declined.