There's an old cliché in journalism that no one reads "dog bites man" because, after a while, it becomes too commonplace, too dull. However, everyone reads "man bites dog!" because it's anything but commonplace, but dull, and no matter how ridiculous, it demands attention. When those attention-getting headlines don't naturally present themselves, of course, some publications are more than happy to simply manipulate or manufacture them.
That's something I've been struggling to put into terms when it comes to Apple coverage lately -- that after being put as high on a pedestal as possible for a modern company, the only thing of interest remaining to an attention-seeking media and greedy money maker community is watching them fall. Even if that fall is completely made up.
On the journalism side, this is causing Apple to lose mindshare and consumer confidence, like when the Wall Street Journal spins iPad gains in enterprise into an anti-Apple, pro-Android headline or when the New Yorker conflates the doomed-without-Jobs and closed-Apple-will-lose memes. Real world buying decisions are made by mainstream people who read those stories, after all.
On the investment side, it's causing individuals to lose money, like when the Wall Street Journal publishes dubious claims of low iPhone demand, or one man's tweets are taken more seriously than Apple's financials. Individual investors are influenced or harmed by the decisions of major market players.
On Tech.pinions, Ben Bajarin says that, post-Steve Jobs, the "reality distortion field" has moved outside Apple, and I think he's on to something.
Apple used to enjoy immense benefits from the media's and the Street's good will, when headlines proclaiming their success and a soaring stock price were what major outlets and money managers determined could get them the most attention or the highest returns.
This is the equal and opposite reaction. Following unprecedented quarter after quarter, year after year success, trumpeting Apple grew stale boring. It stopped selling papers (or getting clicks), and generating quick investment opportunities. We stopped reading and cashing out. The "dog bites man" positive stories simply become too commonplace and too dull, so now we're getting the "man bites dog" negative ones. Or in this case, "Apple bites man".
You can see several recent examples in this week's Macalope joint at Macworld, Jim Dalrymple's blunt-force reaction to Investor Place on The Loop, and John Gruber's Daring Fireball response to Time Magazine (and the above linked response to the New Yorker). Just two of several, which he sees as a trend.
Sadly, it's closer to an inevitability.
Apple, as frustrating, controlling, and otherwise flawed as they are -- as every company is -- at the end of the day truly just wants to make great products, as evidenced by the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. That singular drive and focus has had the side-effect of making them one of the most successful companies of our time.
And that's just not that interesting any more.
From media to money makers to readers to investors, we -- the same collective we -- have gotten tired of enjoying that success and the fruits of it, and now our interest lies in watching Apple fall, even if that fall needs to be manipulated or flat out manufactured.
That, in the act of assaulting Apple we'll become collateral damage, as the attention and spotlight will shift to companies that lack the care or competence to make products anywhere in Apple's league, isn't even a consideration. That we'll once again trumpet the victory of beige boxes, only this time ones we hold in our hands, isn't even a afterthought. If it's not new, at least it will be different.
It's doubtful things will flip again any time soon. This is the sentiment of the day. Of course, when "Apple is doomed" itself gets dull, the media and the markets will decide it's time to reverse course again. Everyone loves a redemption story, right?
The good news is, even if the current headline grabs and market manipulations hurts Apple, I'm not worried about their future. As long as they keep making great products, the ups and downs will come and go, but they and we will be just fine, thank you.
It's only if that ever changes, if Apple themselves start to panic and switch to a reactionary strategy that results in blurred focus and bad products, if they switch to "Apple bites man", that I'll start to worry. And the noise of Wall Street or its journals be damned, there's no sign of that happening any time soon.