Unless you spent last week in one of the world's internet-less voids, like North Korea, Cuba, or Mississippi, you know Apple just released a new iPhone with no headphone jack. And you also know that some tech journalists are not happy about this:
Pretty much every tech blog had something to say about how dumb and "user hostile" Apple is being. More mainstream news (and "news") outlets quickly followed by reporting on this coverage and a sea of angry tweets as evidence of a backlash against Apple. If you're a casual peruser of tech-industry news, you might look at all this and say to yourself, "Apple done fucked up."
And hey, maybe they did. You can argue that forcing users to rely on Bluetooth or a cumbersome headphone jack adapter is inconvenient and dumb. But early indicators suggest iPhone 7 sales are more or less in line with the iPhone 6. And, historically, this is the sort of thing Apple tends to be right about. They were right when they committed to killing the optical drive in 2012. Now most laptop makers have followed suit. And they were right about releasing the iPad, even though that was called "user hostile" too, at first. Anyone else remember how much tech journalists freaked out because it lacked a USB slot, forcing users to buy an adapter if they wanted that feature?
Yeah, that didn't exactly hurt the iPad. And I think most of the journalists writing these think pieces are well aware of that. But they're also well aware that including the word "Apple" in the titles of as many articles as possible is absolutely crucial to their business.
I went through the archives of The Verge, BGR, and TechCrunch, three of the largest tech news sites. I looked at all the articles they ran from the 28th of August to the 12th of September. The Verge ran roughly 600 articles in this time. Over 100 of them were focused on Apple -- around 16 percent of their content. It was around 17 percent for BGR, who ran 405 articles, 70 of which were Apple-focused.
Neither site ran nearly as many articles about Apple's competitors. Samsung merited 18ish articles from BGR and 20 from The Verge, even though they released a ton of products at a trade show during that period AND their flagship phone was recalled for exploding.
"Enough stories of injured children. The new iPhone has no headphone jack!"
Google was the focus of 13 articles for BGR and 34 for The Verge. These numbers aren't perfectly exact -- neither site's archives make it particularly easy to count -- but you get the point. Even TechCrunch, which focused only 58 of their 689 pieces of content on Apple, still wrote more about Apple than they did about Google and Samsung combined.
Because the sad truth is, Apple stories are the lifeblood of many tech news sites. From around 2009 to 2012, a kaleidoscope of websites exploded into being alongside the very new and booming smartphone industry. There were huge-seeming releases every few months, and young journalists like me grew fat rewriting press releases of upcoming gadgets into news articles, swapping blurry pictures of supposed leaked iPhones, and debating the merits of the different operating systems that crowded the landscape like herds of overhyped buffalo.
Anyone else remember MeeGo? No? Just me?
But then a few things happened in fairly quick succession. First, pretty much all the gadget families that weren't Android and iPhone started dying out. Then, Google started releasing a series of algorithm changes to their search engine with the explicit goal of killing low-quality content. Once, for tech journalists, all that had mattered was getting the product's name in the article title so it would get a decent place in Google search results and enough traffic to keep writers in hot pockets and vodka.
After 2012, that stopped being an option. But Apple's popularity provided these journalists with a backdoor option for easy traffic. An article simply announcing that Sony or HTC was releasing a new phone would be penalized by Google. But an article comparing that new phone to the iPhone was a different story altogether. And so articles like this started flooding the internet's tech blogs:
And that's why, today, six years after their last truly game-changing release, every move Apple makes still dominates the tech news sites. Big decisions, like removing a headphone jack, are the focus of days of debate, but even the most mundane actions get multiple articles. Here, let's let Engadget illustrate this one:
And if you somehow missed those four articles, don't worry! They published this the next day:
So of course Apple's decision to leave the headphone jack out of the new iPhone generated a "backlash." That backlash started months before Apple even announced the iPhone 7. In fact, if Apple had included a headphone jack in the iPhone 7, there still would've been a ton of articles debating whether or not it would have been good idea. It doesn't matter if the think pieces are right or wrong, if the outrage is justified or dumb. All that matters is finding as many ways as possible to jam the word "Apple" into a title.
Wow. Prescient, guys.
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