Apple, attention, and the Bruce Lee cover

Apple, attention, and the Bruce Lee cover

Back in the 1990s when I was writing for martial arts magazines, one of my editors told me that any time they could put Bruce Lee on the cover, their sales would go up exponentially. So, no matter what, there was a huge incentive for them to run as many Bruce Lee covers as they could a year. Mercifully, magazines only came out once a month, and they couldn't do it every month, but it was still done just as often as the market could bear.

That's exactly what's happening with Apple in the personal technology space right now. Put Apple in a headline and you'll get more clicks. Truth, logic, intelligence, relevance -- none of that matters compared to getting Apple in the headline, baiting the links, and garnering the click-throughs.

And that's all of our fault.

Twenty years ago customers voted with their wallets and bought exponentially as many magazines when Bruce Lee was on the cover. Now readers vote with their clicks/taps and visit exponentially more tech stories if Apple is in the title.

A publication's job is to serve the reader, stories about Apple are what the readers want, so that's what publications are going to serve. If it's something like a keynote where a new product is launched, they benefits Apple tremendously in terms of immediate and extended coverage and enormous amounts of free publicity. If it post product-launch. when outlets are trying to look for anyway to keep the stories going

And since sensational stories get the most attention, most of the stories will get sensationalized to get that attention.

Since the web means no longer having to contend with monthly magazine publications, or even daily newspaper printing, we just get it from everywhere, all the time. It's even bleeding out of the technology section and onto front pages.

It's a vicious cycle.

Even smart readers and savvy journalists end up visiting -- and sharing! -- even the most absurd, objectionable, and outlandish dumb Apple stories. They do it in droves.

That feeds them, encourages them, and condemns us all to more of the same. Again and again and again.

So the next time any of us roll our eyes, grit out teeth, clench our fists, share our disbelief, post our retorts, or simply shake our heads at a stupid Apple story we're reading and wonder why it got written -- that's the reason. Because of us. Because we not only give them attention, but we give them most of our attention.

Apple's being put on as many covers, in as many ways as possible, and we're racing to buy up every copy.

(For my part, I'm not linking to any of it here on iMore any more, and I'm not Tweeting it, sharing it, or doing anything to help spread it. If we have to disprove out-an-out BS, we'll do it in a stand-alone way, or we'll link to someone who's written something smart, inspiring, or admirable instead. And if there was a rel="unlink" attribute that would actually reduce the spread of the dumb, we'd use it.)

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple, attention, and the Bruce Lee cover


...And taking a bite of the Apple is why mankind is in it's current fallen state. It seems no one has learned their lesson!

Dang it. I was really hoping to click this link and see a Bruce Lee smartcover.
Now we must fight to defend your honor!

Gotta say, I greatly appreciate you for saying this. I can imagine how difficult it will be to follow through, given the fact that you're an editor for an apple blog, so I'll be rooting for you. Well said. Kudos! an editor, you were not doing this already? :)
I kid, I kid. It is your right and your duty as an editor to filter out crap, and, even when we disagree loudly in the comments, I think you generally do a very good job of it.
However, another responsibility is to counteract the spread of dumb, which you cannot do by ignoring it. In the absence of countervailing facts and opinion pieces, it takes over. You are more comic book geek than Trekker, but in the words of Dr McCoy: "Spock, I've found that evil usually triumphs...unless good is very, very careful." While you probably want to avoid outright advocacy, clarifications and corrections are perfectly appropriate editorial functions, too, especially if your readership looks to you to help make sense of otherwise eye-rolling fare elsewhere.
Antennagate? Story, whether or not tipb covered it. Warmgate? Probably not today. In the summer, if it occurs frequently as outdoor temperatures rise? Then, yes, of course. Otherwise, no. Battery overcharging? Seems like a tempest in a teapot to me, but, even then, you cannot publish your useful article on Apple's explanation without having first covered the issue. Or rather, you can, but then you run the risk of undermining your own credibility by publishing only those stories put out by Apple or that put Apple in a favorable light. In the long run, that is going to hurt even more.
Yes, with the unending supply of stupid out there, you cannot (and should not) publish everything. While there is no right or wrong answer to this fine line you as an editor have to walk, it seems better to address the large-scale stupid head-on than to pretend it does not exist.

We're not going to ignore it, we're just not going to link to crackpot attention seekers, and if and when something has enough dumb momentum that we feel the need to weigh in, we'll address the issue and not the attention seeker. I think that's win win?

There's a lot of "dumb momentum" out there. I wonder if Microsoft and Google are paying for some of that dumbness, whether through ads on the sites that spread the dumbness or through paid "astroturf" bloggers / commenters / tweeters etc.
Then again, maybe it's in Microsoft's and Google's best interest to not mention Apple at all. Because, as we all know, if you're an Apple competitor and you mention Apple, you lose. long as it does not turn into a hesitancy to criticize Apple when they deserve it. Which recent reports would you have not covered at all under this newly stated policy?

Couldn't agree more. Make everyone else link to iMore for the original and most informed content rather than vice versa.

This phenomena is not unique to Apple or IOS. In fact I've noticed a trend that anytime a story about some alleged failing of Apple reaches the level of the Main Stream Press(tm), 5 or 10 stories immediately follow pointing out similar (and often equally bogus) allegations about Android.
For every story bashing Apple products (fairly or unfairly) there immediately follows an entire weeks worth of Android bashing. Almost always overblown, and often just downright wrong. (And these stories often get top billing in Google News / Mobile Technology).
Apple obviously has enough carefully planted friends in the press to both (eventually) correct any miss-reporting or bogus stories.
I think its more important for iMore to be first in line to beat down stupid bogus Apple/IOS stories when they are obviously false or Bogus.
Similarly the greater willingness of iMore to take Apple to task of late (when necessary) has brought me back to reading this site after the rampant fanboyism of past years eventually drove me away.
So Rene, don't start avoiding stories or topics just because you want to damp down the dumb. You don't have to link to them, but lots of people depend on you to debunk them.

I've just spent the last 20 minutes looking over Bruce Lee quotes and philosophy and despite the fact I've been a fan of his for many years and have a copy of his book within arms reach (literally), I never realised until now just how much he has in common with Steve Jobs! Strange as it may seem, they both approached their art in a very similar way.
Anyone want to call me crazy? (...crazy...)
Anyone agree? (...tumble weed....)

As a person who has read many a Bruce Lee biography - I see nothing in common between Lee and Jobs. Jobs was a miserable man who had little contact with his family and stepped on anyone he had to. Actually, Steve Jobs is the antithesis of Bruce Lee now that I think about it.

Agree. We sincerely hope that Apple won't join the "Mine's bigger than yours!" race to the bottom. Or whatever it is.

I went to to sell my iPad. I got paid $350 for my iPad. I reiceved the money in my paypal in 48 hours. Its alot easier than selling things on ebay or craigslist.I recommend it.

Speaking of "dumb momentum," it looks like Heatgate has officially ended. So iPad gets about 10 or 15 degrees warmer than you own body temperature. BFD.

The BFD is only if the 110 degrees can shut down the iPad consistently, as a few have reported. While there is not enough data to claim any systemic problem, there are enough seeds there to suggest it should be filed away for a further look when the weather warms up. It is not dumb to follow up on that -- it is good investigative journalism that serves readers.
Our group, for example, uses iPads outdoors in San Diego and Phoenix quite often, and, if the iPad 3 does prove more vulnerable to heat shutdown in sunny 80 degree weather, we would certainly look to purchase iPad 2s instead. Regardless of what the answer is, a site like tipb would be doing me a great service by revisiting this issue when the temperatures hit 80s in late Spring/Summer.