Pjanic to Spurs: How a rumor activates the echo chamber

Marco Luzzani

Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanic might indeed be coming to Tottenham Hotspur, but don't get all worked up about the dozen stories out there. It's all the same Daily Mail report getting spun through the echo chamber.

Here's what happened. In 2011, Miralem Pjanic was a young prospect looking for a bigger contract than Lyon could give him. He considered signing with an English Premier League club, and he has said he strongly considered Arsenal's offer before signing on with Roma in Serie A. Last summer, the Evening Standard reported that Spurs were looking to acquire Pjanic from Roma. So in both 2011 and 2012 there were real attempts by Premier League clubs to sign Pjanic through the transfer market.

There have been a couple of doubtfully sourced rumors linking Tottenham to Pjanic this summer. As we wrote it up this May, there was a Sky Italia report, re-tweeted by Tancredi Palmieri, that Spurs had actually offered Pjanic a contract. That sounds like a real link, but then nothing came of it, suggesting there wasn't anything there in the first place.

So it is entirely plausible that Tottenham might still be interested in Miralem Pjanic. When you see a link to an article on, say, Fanatix or FootballFanCast that says Spurs are interested in him, you think, hey maybe. And that's how this economy works. This time around, it began with an article in the Daily Mail from which the entire extent of reporting was:

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas is interested in Roma's £20million-rated midfielder Miralem Pjanic.

And around the Internet it goes. The echo chamber repeats the same story, and suddenly it's "why do Spurs want Pjanic?" "What role does he play?" "Will Gylfi Sigurdsson go out on loan?" The echo chamber turns a story with basically no content into a series of debates based on a premise which is probably false and certainly unsupported by evidence.

I'm not saying Pjanic won't be a transfer target for Spurs. It seems we came after him once, and so it's certainly possible we might try it again. Plausibility is the key to the Daily Mail's game, and indeed to the whole internet echo chamber. This is plausible. But I think we can hold off until there's at least a second, independent report of this interest that isn't from the least reputable source of sports news in the English-speaking world.

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