For about 20 minutes this morning, the top headline on the Drudge Report was "DRONES TO DELIVER NEWSPAPERS." It was a nice bit for Drudge, one that satisfied both his obsession with drones and his obsession with media, and had a good future-shock value for his aging, perpetually terrified audience. It was also, obviously, an April Fool's Day joke.
Or was it? Drudge's link took readers to an article on the San Francisco Chronicle's site, though that was really a republished post from Business Insider, which in turn linked back to a blog post on the website for le Poste Groupe, France's mail service, announcing, straight-facedly, that Parrot AR drones would be delivering newspapers in Auvergne, France soon. Twitter accounts for Le Poste Groupe and Parrot both seemed to be treating the news at face value, and the blog post itself dated back to the 30th. (The Business Insider post and an Atlantic post were both from March 31st; a VentureBeat article had been published on the 30th.) So what was this? A premature April Fool's joke? A marketing push? A publicity stunt?
Whatever it is, it's bullshit. No one, in France or anywhere else, is replacing their existing newspaper-delivery infrastructure by loading one newspaper at a time onto flying drones. "Whether they actually strapped a newspaper to the back of an AR Drone or not, the whole thing is clearly a stunt," gadget writer Joel Johnson, who's worked with a Parrot AR drones, wrote me in an email. "Not only do AR Drones not have enough battery life to be of any practical use—they can fly for maybe 10 minutes in a typical windy day, and that's without a multi-ounce newspaper payload—they don't have the kind of clever sensor packages on board to do any autonomous navigation in a city, even if they were being remote controlled by an offboard computer."
And anyway, what would the distinction be between any of those possibilities—hoax, prank, promotional device? They all describe the same thing. The story's not not real, by the standards of aggregation. It's just untrue in any meaningful sense, which is probably why Drudge felt like he needed to take the story off of the top of the page—but not off of the page entirely, leaving a much smaller link in the lower right column for a few hours after. On the internet, every day is April Fool's Day, and every prank some sort of "marketing stunt," of varying degrees of practicability, thrown out in the hopes that someone will pick it up and run with it.