Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Doin' the Dump on Apple

I've noticed a fairly abrupt editorial shift at Silicon Alley Insider. They're strongly featuring anti-Apple articles. I was just over at their homepage, where there were eight articles that could be read as negative to Apple, one positive, one neutral and eight that didn't have anything to do with the company. More than half of the total articles were about Apple, and most were strongly negative. They even dredged up a year-old post by Jason Calacanis.

I can understand the interest in Apple, given the iPhone 4 announcement and the other news from the Worldwide Developers Conference this week, but eight negative articles on one page seems like overkill. Years ago, when I worked at Netscape, Fortune's Editor-in-Chief at the time decided that he was going to put Bill Gates on the cover of at least every other issue, so the editorial policy of the magazine became taking a hatchet to Netscape. They reported every negative piece of news they could find, ran negative editorials dismissing the company's ability to compete with Microsoft, and even made stuff up when they couldn't find enough negative facts to fill an issue.

Editors do this because controversy sells papers. Netscape was the "golden haired boy" of the period, but Microsoft spent tons of money on advertising, so Fortune could win two ways: They could generate newsstand sales with controversial articles and at the same time attract more advertising from Microsoft. Silicon Alley Insider is no different; controversy gets visits and page views, which it can sell advertising against.

I too pay attention to what visitors to this blog read. Other than the front page, the most popular recent article was a piece that I wrote about Yahoo buying a large tract of land in Santa Clara, CA to build a new campus. I wondered if that was the best use of Yahoo's capital, given the company's problems and the huge number of empty and under-occupied buildings in Silicon Valley that they could get a great deal on. Since that story got so much interest, I could have written multiple variations on it, returning to the theme again and again, but I haven't. I made my arguments in that post, and I see no reason to belabor the point.

Controversy sells newspapers, magazines, cable news channels, websites and blogs. That's fine with me, but eight negative articles on the front page in one day is piling on. It's not just Apple--I'd feel the same way if the articles were about Google, Microsoft, Yahoo or someone else. If all you can do is kick sand in the face of the same company over and over, perhaps you need to give your reporters a little broader range of assignments.

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