Anatomy of the Chevy Volt leak - how the world learned about the first plug-in hybrid

As most of the Internet is now aware, General Motors unveiled the Chevrolet Volt PHEV concept yesterday. AutoblogGreen was one of the media outlets that were given a sneak preview of the Volt in the middle of December, and we were biting our nails to tell our readers about this car. I think it's clear by the response from readers of this site and all the other outlets who featured the Volt yesterday that there are a lot of people who would have been interested in this car whenever it was released.

As I wrote on Saturday, one of the conditions we had with the preview information was that we needed to wait until January 7th to release any info on the Volt, GM's E-Flex system or anything related to the concept, even the name.

All this didn't stop me from creating a Google news alert last week for "Chevy Volt," to keep an eye out for any media sites that decided to break the information embargo. I knew if someone else went live with the information, then AutoblogGreen could do the same. So I was looking and looking, but there was nothing all week.

Until Saturday afternoon.

With just a few hours left on the embargo, holes started to appear. First, I heard that the New York Times had leaked the name. The news came in their online edition, which was dated Sunday but was available already on Saturday. Once I heard this, I did a quick Google search for "Chevrolet Volt" and found more information at GM Inside News. This is when I took my first screenshot of the day, and I decided to follow the Internet as it (she? he? them?) broke the news of the Chevy Volt. Follow me after the jump to see how everyone learned about what might become the world's first production plug-in hybrid car.
That first screen grab I took at 5 p.m. EST Saturday showed both GM Inside Line and VWvortex Forums were talking about the Volt (click on any thumbnail to enlarge it). I looked at both Google and Google News and saw that Google News had a link to the New York Times story that revealed the name of the Volt, so I went ahead and published a post on the name, which you can read here. At the time, Google News only had eight stories about "Chevrolet Volt." This was about to change.

At 6 p.m., I thought it might be neat to see how Google Image search adapted to the news of the Volt. Here's the screen shot of that result. With six hours left to go, what the Volt looked like was still under wraps.

Except it wasn't. The Chicago Tribune decided they needed an image to go the the little preview snippet they had for their Sunday automotive section. The image they chose was of the Volt, and Winding Road caught wind of that image. Someone had a low-quality scan of the newspaper image and ran with it. I found out about that and let our readers know that the visual was out and I reposted the scan. This was the first ever image of the Volt online, as far as I know.

A few hours later I poked around Google again. At 8 p.m., there were nine stories in Google News that matched the search terms "Chevrolet Volt," thanks to the Daily Times in the UK running a piece on the new car. This one had a lot of information in it, and was again dated for the 7th. I turned their information around and put it in our own post, getting more and more eager to let AutoblogGreen readers know the rest of the story. That would have to wait, though, until 12:01.

At midnight, we posted a few stories in succession, and, thanks to a lot of votes on Digg, our Volt story started making the rounds. Of course, since we were now free of the embargo, the news was out pretty much everywhere, and a lot of people realized the Volt was an impressive concept car. AutoblogGreen had three initial posts on the Volt, and our writer Sam Abuelsamid was on hand at the NAIAS in Detroit on Sunday for the official unveiling and took a great series of pictures.

On Sunday, Google caught a lot of the Volt's only action. By 11 a.m. the News search was full of various Volt stories, and there were even more later in the afternoon. On Sunday afternoon, at around 1 p.m., Google Image had caught up and four of the first five results for "Chevrolet Volt" were of the concept car.

By 6 p.m. on Sunday, AutoblogGreen was the number one search result for "Chevy Volt," which was pretty cool. Also, both Slashdot and Daily Kos featured us on their front pages, which we haven't had before. I stopped keeping track of how the news was filtering out because it just got to be too much. That's what Wikis are for.

All and all, Sunday was an exciting day online. Of course, there were a lot more cars announced in Detroit than the Volt, and we covered those as well. Also, we've got writers still hunting down stories at the NAIAS, so stay tuned to AutoblogGreen for all your green car news.

and, of course, the big hit of the day:

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