An Apple story a day keeps real news away

Some time ago the staff at the Central Florida Future published a political cartoon on their opinion page that has stayed in my memory. It depicted a journalist (identified by their suit, “PRESS” badge, and reporter’s notebook in hand) holding a telephone up to their ear. Speaking into the phone, the reporter says, “Hello, is this Apple? It’s a slow news day…could you guys release a new product?”

I found this cartoon so hilarious because it expresses feelings about news coverage of Apple Inc. that I have felt for a long time. It seems that whenever this company either announces or releases a new product the development is treated as front-page news. I consider all of the news coverage as essentially free advertising for Apple’s products, as if Apple had assimilated every major news outlet into its corporate Borg-like public relations collective.

Can you think of any of company that benefits from such extensive reporting on their products? Even if we limited our scope to other technology companies, no other company gets media treatment even approaching that of Apple. When a spokesperson announces an upcoming new gadget, there is universal coverage essentially regurgitating a company press release. When the product is eventually made available to consumers, that fact itself becomes a news event: have you ever seen a news piece on people lined up outside of Apple stores eager to purchase the new such-and-such? I certainly have.

The only other company I can think of that comes close to Apple-level media interest is Facebook. The ubiquitous social media site has received media coverage for legitimate business news events (such as the IPO of Facebook stock) and for less-legitimate seeming reasons (launch of a new site feature, updated user policies, etc.).

This week both companies are back in the news: Apple because they’ve announced an impending new iPhone, Facebook because the new iPhone features a built-in Facebook application. I don’t know about you, but this sure smells like a lot of convergence going on to me. We have the technological convergence of Facebook the web site converging with Facebook the app to be integrated with the iPhone. There’s also the convergence (or should that be collusion?) of two of the most successful and recognizable companies in the world benefiting from each other’s success. Facebook has been one of the most widely-used social networking services on the planet, and Apple gets to use the Facebook brand to advertise the new bells and whistles on the latest iPhone. Meanwhile, Facebook benefits from having their brand associated with a new, highly-anticipated Apple product, and will enjoy some positive media coverage to offset recent reporting on the plunging price of Facebook stock (the company’s stock price rose today following the Apple announcement).

There are certain outlets that focus on technology news, such as Wired, CNET, and countless blogs. I understand why technology and business-oriented operations cover Apple announcements, and often reporters from these outfits can provide insight and analysis that greatly enhances the coverage. But we don’t need every news site putting a notice on their main page, or every evening news broadcast including a mention in their program. Surely there are better uses of airtime, page space, and bandwidth than to volunteer journalistic resources in furtherance of the Apple Inc. hype behemoth.

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