Apple: The Cult with a Nasdaq Ticker

Funny but thought-provoking discussion on NPR’s On the Media about Apple’s ability to cloud reporters’ minds and turn them into unpaid Apple flacks. The case in recent point, of course, is the over-the-top front-page treatment for the iPhone:

BOB GARFIELD: You actually write a column devoted to the whole idea that Apple isn’t so much a company as a cult with a ticker symbol. How does a company achieve this status? Is it because they’re masters of presentation, or just because they consistently deliver the goods?

PETE MORTENSON: It’s all of the above, and it’s also a third piece, which is that they’re massively secretive. So essentially they tend to let journalists, pundits and their fans do all of their P.R. for them. I’m told that neither Google nor Yahoo, who worked intimately on software for the iPhone, ever saw it until Jobs introduced it.

I still wasn’t convinced there was going to be an iPhone, and if there hadn’t been, I think you would have seen Apple’s stock plummet yesterday. But because there was, the entire world went nuts with acclaim.

BOB GARFIELD: In the end, this is really — it’s a business story. Even Enron had a hard time finding its way to page one. Do you find yourself marveling at how the mainstream press can get so completely hooked?

PETE MORTENSON: I do to a certain extent, but I also think that the fascination is a very simple one. Apple is one of a handful of American companies that is still looked at as the leader in its field. For numerous other fields, companies in Asia and Europe are out in front, so when Apple, started by a pair of good American boys, gets up and does something that really knocks back those kinds of competitors, Americans are out of their seat. It’s an amazing story.

[via Business News Insider]


  1. “For numerous other fields, companies in Asia and Europe are out in front, so when Apple, started by a pair of good American boys, gets up and does something that really knocks back those kinds of competitors, Americans are out of their seat.”

  2. John — I take it you don’t think there is an element of “root, root, root for the cool tech hometeam” in the frothy fan-boyishness of the U.S. media response to Apple?

  3. Media bias.
    As Dvorak noted:
    …newsroom editors are generally so out of touch that they can’t see this bias. Besides, they use Macs too. There are entire newsrooms, such as the one at Forbes, that consist entirely of Macintoshes. Apparently nobody but me finds this weird.
    Even Jack Shafer, who recently wrote about Apple’s skewed coverage in Slate fails to point out the connection between the skewed coverage and the existence of this peculiar conflict of interest based on the national writers’ use of Macs.
    I often confront these guys with this assertion, and they, to a man (I’ve never confronted a female reporter about this), all say that they use a Mac “because it is better.” Right. And that attitude doesn’t affect coverage now, does it?

  4. Dvorak wrote: “Apparently nobody but me finds [Forbes’ entire newsroom full of Macs] weird”
    Forbes probably has a reliable production system based on custom Mac applications or automated with Applescript, which doesn’t exist on Windows.
    Throwing that out would be an expensive proposition.
    But Macs are better, especially now, when they don’t yet have any viruses or malware.
    At my last consulting gig, I brought my Mac laptop to help with my build master role. My ‘main’ machine there was a dual-Xeon with 4GB RAM running Windows 2k (later XP). The Mac was definitely more adept at working with the Unix servers we dealt with, and monitoring logs was much easier on the Mac; the terminal emulators on Windows really bite monkey nuts.

  5. I agree with John K. What a ridiculous assertion. Have we forgotten that Microsoft, which is viewed as their main competitor, is American? How long did it take for someone here to chime in with “Windows sucks”?

  6. I also agree with John K.
    It’s not patriotism that motivates the press in these regards — Apple is hardly Ford, nor do they appeal to the same customers.
    So, what is Apple:
    Apple is usability.
    Apple is design.
    Apple is about the future.
    Apple is creative.
    Apple is empowered.
    Apple is productive.
    Apple is *NOT* business as usual.
    Apple is coolness.
    Apple is “wow” factor.
    Apple is exciting.
    Apple is young.
    Apple is mobile. (Young, upwardly mobile?!)
    Apple is worldly.
    Apple is metropolitan. (Metrosexual?!)
    Apple is both geeky AND aesthetic.
    Apple is about the vision of one individual.
    Apple is (usually) a proprietary, closed system.
    Apple is (usually) exclusive, not inclusive.
    Apple is… well, more than a bit elitist.
    Apple is also the best.
    Really, with those characteristics, I don’t see much room there for “Team USA”. Rather, it’s about the cult of the creative, empowered individual, and about people who are citizens of the world, not citizens of any particular country.
    The iPhone got a lot of press because:
    1> Steve Jobs has a strong cult of personality around him.
    2> Apple has a strong cult of personality around it.
    3> Both have impressive track records.
    4> The phone really is a huge, huge leap in usability and design for mobile devices.
    Almost all of the features of the iPhone have been seen before elsewhere. The experience of using those features on small mobile devices in the past, however, has been generally horrible. Finding several great ways of using these features on mobile devices, and then putting them all together in an asthetically elegant manner on one device is the genius here.

  7. a reporter says:

    Another problem –
    If reporters write even a slightly negative story about Apple the result is 100s of emails claiming the reporter is an idiot and should be fired –speaking solely from experience.
    It’s weirdly dotcommish crowd behaviour in my mind.