You may have heard that there’s a new iPad out today (you can read my review here or see a video review here). Why have you heard about it? Probably because the media is saturated with coverage of everything Apple does.
This really ticks some people off. Truth be told, it used to annoy me too. When I was a staffer, whether it was at a newspaper or website, the only technology stories the front news section – the “mainstream” part – ever seemed to be interested in were those dealing with Apple’s new gadgets. That always struck me as grossly unfair and possibly even biased, since other technology companies launch cool new products every day yet never get anywhere near the same coverage. Isn’t devoting such attention to one company essentially giving it free advertising?
But then there’s the other side. The fact is, stories on Apple products inevitably get tons of readers, which means a few things. Clearly, there is a large audience for such stuff and it’s the media’s job to cover things people are interested in. There are, of course, limits to this truism, otherwise there’d be even more celebrity gossip “stories” out there than there already are, but for the most part news outlets like to give people what they want. Never mind the fact that stories with more readers equal more advertising dollars.
There’s more to it, though. The inordinate amount of coverage Apple gets is also warranted by the fact that the company has a track record over the past decade of shaking things up. Whether it’s content distribution (iPods and iTunes), communications and telephony (iPhone) or portable computing (iPad), Apple has serially revolutionized some markets and created others. Few other technology companies can make the same claim.
This success has translated not just into a ravenous reading public, but also a soaring stock market value. Apple is the world’s most valuable company, as well as one that sets trends, so why shouldn’t journalists be covering its every move?
Somewhere along the way, however, Apple has become more than just a company. It’s a religion, inspiring the sort of emotion usually reserved for debates over whether or not God exists. In some respects, it’s always been that way, with Mac fans for decades championing their company as the underdog against the evil Microsoft empire. But it has become worse as Apple has transformed from the underdog to the top dog.
On one side are the fanboys, who vociferously defend Apple and its products from naysayers and at the same time put down other companies and their goods. On the other side are the people who hate Apple and everything it stands for, such as the idea of closed products created behind a veil of secrecy that are usually sold at a premium.
Apple is a difficult company to cover because of this polarity. If you write something negative about it or its products, the fan boys jump on you. That’s actually not that hard to deal with. Since it’s impossible to please the rabidly obsessed, the only logical course of action is to simply ignore these people.
It’s a little harder to deal with the haters who attack whenever you write something positive, or even whenever you write anything at all about Apple, because their arguments aren’t entirely incorrect or unsympathetic. Apple, they argue, has benefited greatly from a media that slavishly reports on every little thing it does, or even doesn’t do (like the cottage industry devoted to writing nothing more than rumours about the company’s upcoming products).
In effect, it’s a chicken-or-the-egg thing: Has the company achieved its status on its own merits, or has its rise been fueled by the media?
I like to think a supportive media had some role to play, but it’s hard to believe that journalists alone somehow managed to convince millions upon millions of people to buy iPods, iPhones and iPads. Maybe the answer to Apple’s success and subsequent media coverage is, oh I don’t know, that the company has just managed to make good stuff that people want to buy? Could it be that simple?
Nah, that’s just crazy talk. It doesn’t matter, though, because I’ll get flamed either way.
On the plus side, haters can take solace in the fact that no technology company ever reigns for long. IBM once had its day in the sun, as did Microsoft. Apple is the belle of the ball right now, but it’s a safe bet that won’t be the case for long. Pretty soon, there’ll be another company that everyone is fawning over and that will inspire hatred.
It’s The Lion King’s circle of life, technology-style.