In about a week, Apple will announce a new phone. This will become national news, and coverage of a piece of metal, plastic and glass will dwarf that of human suffering here and abroad. You've probably already read some exciting things about the iPhone 6, even though it doesn't technically exist yet, and is a "big secret." That's not an accident—Apple makes reporters do their advertising.
Apple blogger child prodigy Mark Gurman's recent profile of the Cupertino PR machine is a terrific read from someone with deep knowledge of the company's deviousness. You should read the entire thing. But ahead of the release of the iPhone 6, one section sticks out in particular: "Strategies: The "Art of Deep Background" and Controlling the Press."
That's where you come in. Almost everything you read about a new Apple product in mainstream websites and newspapers is engineered by Apple itself, part of a large, ever-churning strategy to create hype and in turn drive sales. By treating itself like a mix between the Gestapo and DARPA, Apple's vise-grip on information makes any details a golden commodity. Apple scoops are the most coveted among tech and business journalists. An email from Apple is a favor from Apple. A story from Apple is a great day. You're lucky to be invited. Apple knows this—so much so, Gurman says, that it can play publications off one another like jealous suitors:
When Apple is not pleased with coverage, it sometimes works to shift the narrative, even attempting to undermine giant news organizations.
When Apple realized that The New York Times was gunning to win the Pulitzer Prize for its controversial iEconomy series on the Apple supply chain, Apple's PR team sent articles criticizing The New York Times to other journalists, according to a person familiar with the strategy.
Most recently, Apple utilized covert tactics to challenge a Reuters story about Apple's accessibility practices. Reuters referred to Apple as a champion of the blind community, but called for the company to do even more work in the accessibility field. Unable to get Apple to comment for the story, the article quoted a 2013 Tim Cook speech to underscore Apple's understanding of accessibility's importance. Despite being unwilling to officially participate, Apple asked Reuters off the record to include more quotes from Cook's speech, said a person familiar with the situation. Reuters declined, since the speech is publicly available material. Instead of commenting on-the-record before or after the article was published, Apple's PR team disapprovingly pointed a loyal group of Apple-focused bloggers to the entire 2013 speech transcript, and these bloggers then used the supplied details to attack Reuters.
Gurman explains how individual writers can be singled out by Apple's propaganda machinery:
Off-the-record, the company has warned journalists off of following the paths of other writers, or suggested that a relationship problem with Apple would be avoided if the journalist opts not to cover certain topics.
As well as his own website, to which Apple reps sent tips about Android product failures:
Trying to plant stories is something every PR firm in the world does. But no other PR team on Earth is able to manipulate almost the entirety of the media. So many tech journalists are so beholden to Apple, and so afraid of getting blacklisted or chastised, that they obey Steve Jobs' ghost-via-press-release.
When our own sister site Gizmodo pulled off perhaps the greatest tech scoop of all time, it was essentially sent into a time-out that only expired this month, when they were presumably removed from Apple's blacklist, invited to the launch event next week, and allowed to have some fruit snacks and milk with the other kids. So long as people care about iPhones (that is to say, until our generation dies), Apple will keep playing reporters like cheap Zunes. And so long as carefully timed articles about Apple's flagship products keep materializing, you should know why: because someone in Cupertino decided you should read them.
Photos of best buds Walt Mossberg, Steve Jobs, and Katie Cotton via Getty