Actually, online sales are doing just fine, thanks
If you’re the New York Times and you lead off your Sunday edition with a Page One piece entitled “Some Buyers Grow Web-Weary, and Online Sales Lose Steam,” the assumption is that the article would be true. Except… it turns out that the Times was playing fast and loose with their supporting evidence. Slate‘s Jack Shafer noted that the Times didn’t really research their story at all:
The piece provides additional evidence to account for online’s decline. Dell now sells computers at Wal-Mart, it reports. Gone unmentioned is the fact that Dell sold PCs at Best Buy, Costco, and Sam’s Club as recently as 1994, according to this Times article from one year ago. Another anecdote: Expedia.com has “almost tripled” its number of ticketing kiosks in hotels and other touristy spots. It could be a terrific supporting statistic if the story included the base number of kiosks that have been almost tripled, which it doesn’t. The most bogus anecdote claims that “Borders … recently revamped its Web site to allow users to reserve books online and pick them up in the store.” There’s nothing “recent” about that service. Borders spokeswoman Anne Roman says via e-mail that the book chain has given customers the option to reserve books online and retrieve them in stores since November 2002.
Oh, feel the wrath of Jack, Bill Keller.