What the Blogosphere Taught Me About The Apple IPad
Not that I have one to take. But do you ever feel like you know everything about something even though you've never actually seen it in real life? That's how I'm feeling this morning after perusing my usual round of news sites, blogs and tweets. I know everything about the iPad... or wait, do I know nothing at all? Even though the iPad has taken over my media world?
It has absolutely dominated the blogosphere, proving a more than worthy competitor to President Obama's "State of the Union" speech. As such, the iPad launch is also the best example yet of the runaway nature of social media. Apple went about its business as usual, closely guarding the name of the new device, carting out Steve Jobs at the launch event yesterday so his apostles could "ooh" and "aah" at his every muscle twitch, and notably, from what I could tell, not live-streaming the event (don't worry, Steve, people would still show up in person!). In other words, Apple worked hard at trying to keep an air of mystery around the product in an era in which so little mystery actually remains. Meanwhile, of course, the rest of us engaged in producing a firestorm of iPad-related -- I'm going to use the following term loosely -- information.
Here, then, is a roundup of ten iPad-related news items I've seen over the last few days:
1. "Frantic Steve Jobs Stays Up All Night Designing Apple Tablet." This story from The Onion was hot enough that the phrase "Frantic Steve Jobs" actually became a Twitter trending topic early yesterday. The story claimed that Jobs found himself "gluing nine separate iPhones to the back of a cafeteria tray" in a desperate all-nighter before the launch event.
4. You're completely wrong if you think it's the savior of the publishing industry.
5. Walt Mossberg, despite some misgivings, thinks, "the software looked impressive, and that could help Steve Jobs do the one thing even he has never done in an amazing career: get the public to love not just a better version of an existing type of gadget, but a whole new category of gadget."
6. Walt Mossberg was "lukewarm" about the whole thing.
7. The lack of Flash is going to kill the iPad as an advertising vehicle.
8. The Twittersphere was logging 177,000 tweets per hour at the height of iPad mania.
9. This iPad ad is a fake. (Actually, once Jobs held an actual iPad in his hands, that became obvious.)
10. And, of course, the iPad is the progeny of this parody feminine hygiene product from a few years ago, launched by MadTV. (Believe it, kids, iTampon was a trending topic last night.)
So what is an iPad? Based on the above, it's a feminine hygiene product, reviewed by Walt Mossberg, consisting of nine iPhones glued to a cafeteria tray that can't handle Flash. It's worthy of people making fake ads about it, but may also put a damper on digital advertising while it is -- or is not -- proving to be the savior of the publishing industry. It also is the main cause of obsessive tweeting.
In other words, the bizarre echo chamber that we now inhabit has the ability to completely overwhelm the messaging about the product itself. To that extent, Apple is both the lucky and the unlucky one. Countless thousands, maybe even millions, will watch the video of the official Steve Jobs announcement of the launch, even though it appears that Apple has kept with its usual policy of not posting its content to YouTube, a practice I find increasingly bizarre. Even more will watch the 8-minute video posted on the site, and the real commercials, when they come out. Most companies can only hope to be so adored.
On the other hand, no matter how much Apple spends on advertising of the iPad, we are less dependent on its official messaging than we ever have been.
Maybe in Apple's case, this barely matters. At this point, there's a built-in base of people who will buy its products simply because they exist. But the rest of us should study the iPad launch for a peek into what democratized media really means. Think you're in control of the message? Ha!