What does Apple Inc. have in common with the crises in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, the floods, cyclones, Europe’s debt crisis, nail-biting politics and the question of who should be head of the Future Fund? Absolutely nothing, yet it doesn’t seem that way using recent media coverage as a gauge.
Earlier this week, almost every media organisation breathlessly posted alongside or even above these important stories, as hot breaking news, what was no more than a mundane Apple PR plant, gifting gazillions in free publicity to the happy widget maker ahead of its launch of the next-generation iPad last night.
On Thursday night the publicity paid off for Apple, when shares in the company briefly soared past $US600 ($571.92) for the first time on Wall Street. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley projected a $720 price for Apple shares in the near future.
No wonder Apple Inc is now the largest public company in the world and bloats on $100 billion in spare cash reserves.
Was a three-day delay in the release of the new Apple iWhatever really 'breaking news'? Was it so critical or newsworthy that serious news organisations broadcast this as news? Apple would think so, and so would its ready army of sycophants, but why do the sophisticated media allow themselves to be manipulated?
Virtually the entire global media seems willing to suspend its normal collective disdain for regurgitating press releases when it comes to Apple Inc. Indeed, they seem to want to outrush each other, to be first to break the story, as if it actually is a story.
What other commercial operation gets handed so many thousands of acres and hours of free adulatory coverage every time it merely opens its mouth, or when it plants stories about what it might possibly say when it opens its mouth? There isn’t one.
By the way, I’m a largely contented user of Apple products. My home and offices are full of iThings. I use an iPhone, an iPad, an iPod, an Apple desktop computer, an Apple laptop, iTunes, the iStore for ebooks and all sorts of other Apple stuff.
Yet that doesn’t stop me scratching my head over why the media gives Apple such a free ride. As a book publisher and author, I know how hard it is to get a column inch of a free mention for a new crime novel. As a board member of a couple of listed companies, and a former investment banking adviser to a great many of them, I am used to seeing a more sceptical media at work. So I am in awe of Apple Inc for manufacturing a global media mindset that gives them such uncritical red carpet treatment and massive free exposure. Good on them, I say.
Perhaps someone is doing a PhD somewhere on this phenomenon. If so, it’s improbable they will find anything behind it as sordid as cash-for-comment, or iThings-for-comment. The phenomenon is too widespread for that. So what is it?
The last time I can recall this kind of persistent media frenzy to repackage corporate PR was as a kid, when every year there was huge hoopla with the unveiling of a new Holden or Ford automobile model, always with a 'leaked' front-page newspaper photo, or a night-time news story first showing the mystery car hidden under a tarpaulin and the new better-than-ever model to be splashed inside the tabloid or later on the program.
The joke, as we discovered – the joke being on us, the gullible public – was that the 'unique' new local models always looked rather similar to whatever General Motors or Ford had already released overseas months earlier, but Joe and Jane Public didn’t know because our information costs were high in those days, pre-internet and pre-cheap travel.
The cosy conspiracy between the media and Big Auto became so silly over time this shonky practice eventually disappeared, and another reason, perhaps, why Big Auto has almost disappeared too.
Surely it’s time that today's media stops being a supplicant to the admittedly magnificent Apple marketing machine. But maybe I am missing something? Perhaps there’s an App on my iPad that can tell me.
John M Green is a leading company director and an author. His latest thriller, Born to Run, is now in paperback and ebook. Click here for a free chapter and book trailer.