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iPhone mania strikes media websites’ ad revenue

Average Apple fanboi 10 minutes before iPhone release Photo credit: Nara Vieira da Silva Osga

Apple fanatics around the country are agog with excitement at the prospect of finally being able to get their hands on an iPhone, which will be officially released to Australian customers at midnight Friday.

Even more excited are the advertising salespeople at technology and media websites around the country, who have for months been milking Apple fanbois’ enthusiasm.

Since Apple announced the phone’s availability here, we have been bombarded by an onslaught of iPhone stories – how much it will cost, which carriers will offer it, which features Apple left out, and whether anyone really needs them, is paying $100 for Apple to replace a non-removable battery perfectly justifiable (Apple fans) or yet another example of profiteering and environmental vandalism (Apple agnostics).

With so many Applemaniacs desperate for information, any new detail was an easy 10,000-hit boost as a minimum to an online publication’s page count as the link appeared in message boards, social networks, and viral email swarms.

The cynics had their turn too, with plenty of articles saying, “it’s just a phone, people, relax!” knowing full well that such heresy would be pilloried by the Apple faithful and shared, in outrage, in Apple message boards, social networks, etc.

Publishers dress up their iPhone click-baiting in robes of altruism and public interest. “It gets lots of hits, so that must be what people want! We would be foolish not to give people what they wanted,” they claim. Meanwhile, Apple has kept a tight leash on review models ahead of the launch, reportedly only releasing them to selected, friendly publications guaranteed to give favorable coverage.

Readers have a right to feel ripped off.

iPhone stories are lazy journalism – minimum effort and maximum payoff in audience numbers. They are in many ways symptomatic of the Australian news media’s race to the bottom for website page impressions, which was thoroughly reported on ABC’s Media Watch. Why bother writing quality stories or running long-term investigations when you can get more hits – and revenue – giving Apple free publicity?

In fact, Apple’s phenomenal success in harnessing its customers and the media to promote its products – at no cost – is a prime case study in how to use social networks for marketing. If only our own products or services inspired the same devotion and controversy…

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