So the press has become Steve Jobs' willing tool? What else is new?

Let's face the truth: Apple gets a ridiculous amount of free publicity because we've all bought into the idea that it's special. Kudos to the corporate media planners on a job well done.

A unexpected bump in the head landed yours truly in the emergency ward earlier in the year. When they wheeled me into the CAT scan, I handed over my cell phone.

"Oh, we don't need that," the attendant told me. "We only take iPhones."

Wow, I thought. Of all places to land a scoop!

"You mean there's something about the device which interferes with the picture process?"

Apple

"No," the attendant laughed. "We're just looking for iPhones, not that other stuff."

OK, I thought. Apple had developed a very good product, but this bordered on mania. Truth be told, I also felt slightly guilty as a sometimes accomplice in the hype machine. If we're going to be honest here, it's impossible not to acknowledge that Apple plays the press like a fiddle when it comes to product releases--a willing fiddle, but a fiddle nonetheless.

Fact is that Apple has always been terrific copy--going back to the original partnership of the "Two Steves," through the prolonged corporate melodrama of the mid-1990s and right up to the return of the prodigal co-founder. It mattered little that other companies' products had bigger market share. Reporters just found Apple to have been a more interesting company to write about.

But it's sometimes hard to tell who is driving the train any more. Most of the time, Apple's corporate marketing mavens can count upon reams of free publicity during the run-up to a product debut. A suggestive comment here or a false leak there is all it takes to trigger a media scrum. How crazy has it become? Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie noted last year that the iPhone generated $400 million in free publicity for Apple. When was the last time Sun Microsystems or IBM got that kind of treatment?

A bemused Dave Winer had the right idea as he watched the day's coverage unfold.

It's really upsetting watching all the geek journos scrambling for scraps.

Which raises a simple question.

1. Why don't they broadcast Apple keynotes on MSNBC or CNN? All this makeshift jury-rigged michegas. It was cute for a while, but this has been going on for 25 years!

He's got that right. So it was that in the last week nearly every self-respecting tech blog worth its salt wigged out over the approaching debut of the second-generation iPhone. The pack picked up the scent and nobody dared get left behind. You'd think the Jobs keynote at the Worldwide Developers Conference might have been anticlimactic? No way. There were live blogs everywhere--even the normally staid New York Times got into the act.

I guess it's a case of keeping up with the Joneses, though the risk is that we've all inadvertently become fan boys. Let's face the truth: Apple gets a enormous amount of free publicity because we've all bought into the idea that it's special. I suppose kudos are in order to Apple's corporate media planners on a job well done. But will we stop? No way. The clicks are insanely great. And besides, when it comes to Apple, you all can't ever seem to get your fill. Or do I have that wrong? (Before answering, check out this snapshot of Techmeme from earlier in the day.)

All Apple, all the time Techmeme

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About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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