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Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Sep 10

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9/10/2010 10:00 AM  RssIcon

steve_jobs_iphone.jpgI mentioned in a previous post that I had followed Apple’s Sept. 1 press conference. A more apt characterization of the event might be a meeting of the church of Apple fanatics.

Members of the press are supposed to be neutral and report the facts without endorsements. And I’m sure there were legitimate press at the Apple event. But also at this event were hundreds of members of the church of Apple. The audience’s clear unobjectivity was evident from the start. When Steve Jobs walked onto the stage, he was greeted by huge audience applause and cheers. The expressed enthusiasm continued with hurrahs, shouts and yells every time he mentioned some new product, feature, button or function.

At first, I thought perhaps the live blog reporter I was following was himself biased, perhaps overstating events. So, I logged simultaneously into two different live blog posts so I could compare the live event comments. The bloggers were virtually identical. Both reported “audience cheers,” “applause,” “yelling,” etc.

This Apple event reminded me of a NewTek press conference I attended more than 10 years ago.

In addition to the legitimate press, the company cleverly also invited its product users (read fans) to these affairs. Instead of what is normally a small, professional event, NewTek scheduled its NAB “press conferences” in a large meeting room or auditorium. The facility was then stuffed not just with reporters, but cheering throngs of “techies,” all gaga about every new toaster feature or function.

When the company’s owners stepped onto the stage, one imagined the Beetles or (insert your own favorite rock star) had just appeared before them. Lights, camera — action! Cue the music. The event was not a press conference, it was a users confab, and customers embraced it with high enthusiasm. I endured one of these evangelical-like events and never returned.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing current NewTek company management or its range of products. However, I am seriously dissing the way the previous owners conducted their so-called “press conferences.” I think Apple must have been in the audience taking notes.

My disdain for staged public events masquerading as press conferences also applies to the way Apple conducts press conferences. Filling a “press conference” with hundreds of loyal customers stacks the deck against any reporter attempting to get a clear picture of what’s being showcased. Such an event is not a press event, it’s a show.

Its goal is to create an atmosphere that can influence the legitimate press. Enthusiasm is contagious. If everyone around you is cheering, then whatever is happening must be good, right? It’s all part of clever marketing. We’re cool, hip, sooo tomorrow. It’s all designed to make one think that if you aren’t also standing in your seat cheering, then you obviously don’t get it.

I compare this market gimmick to inviting your family over to see your new baby. You’ll hear nothing but "ooos" and "aaahs." Nobody is going to say he’s ugly — even if he is.

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