Why does the media love Apple and trash Dell?

The media loves Apple, trashes Dell, and gives HP a pass? Perception supposedly is reality, but just whose perception is it?

Steve Tobak
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Steve Tobak is a consultant and former high-tech senior executive. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a management consulting and business strategy firm. Contact Steve or follow him on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Steve Tobak
3 min read

I'm not a big fan of surveys, so I don't quote them often. But a recent Consumer Reports survey about PC manufacturers listed Apple as No. 1 in tech support, with Lenovo second, Dell third, and HP dead last. I should also say that Dell came in second in desktops.

I thought the headline should be "Survey says leading PC maker HP dead last in tech support." But that's not what happened. The media hailed Apple, trashed Dell, and gave HP a pass.

Horror stories about Dell's support are all over the blogosphere. Why is that? I mean, why does the media give Dell such a hard time?

Because perception is reality. But aside from being a pithy statement, what does that really mean?

Well, according to Merriam-Webster, perception is "physical sensation interpreted in the light of experience."

As it turns out, I have a great deal of experience with Dell. And while I think the quality of some of Dell's computers seems to have declined in recent years, my experience with its tech support has been quite positive. That's my experience.

So what is it about the media's experience that makes them love Apple, ride Dell, and cut HP slack? I guess the media has learned through experience how to get eyeballs. That doesn't make them bad; it's just how they get paid by advertisers.

Eyeballs seem to gravitate to winners and losers. Clearly, Apple's hot these days, so it's easy to understand why the media loves Apple. Apple's a winner.

And while HP's operating results have been strong in recent quarters, its tech support appears to be subpar. And since that makes HP neither a winner nor a loser--it seems to fall somewhere in the middle--that means no eyeballs. So HP gets a pass.

But Dell, well, Dell's another story. Dell has fallen on hard times lately. Its growth engine has stalled amid stories of executive dysfunction, battery problems, and degradation in tech support. Michael Dell has returned as CEO to fix the mess.

These days the media loves to trash Dell, not because Dell's a loser, but because it's a former winner that, as of late, has fallen from grace. That, to the media, seems to be even better than being a loser. A winner that falls off a pedestal (that the media helped put Dell on, mind you) gets lots of eyeballs.

So, the next time you read a blog that seems to be "piling on," remember, that's just the media doing its job. The media isn't paid to reflect reality, it's paid to get eyeballs. And if bloggers perceive that they'll get eyeballs by dragging Dell through the mud while hoisting Apple on the highest pedestal they can find, well, that's just what they'll do.

And if that bugs you, well, you only have yourself--actually your eyeballs--to blame.

As for Dell, it only has to worry about the perception of its customers and shareholders. But what if its customers and shareholders are also influenced by the media? Uh-oh.