Insight: Breathless media reports give investors something to grieve about
Sometimes, the media can’t cover a cough. That is perhaps never more apparent than when it comes to a pending product introduction — namely Apple’s iPhone 6, which apparently will be unveiled on September 9.
Product introductions are a horror. How bad can it get? Just ask anyone who, in the lead-up to Amazon.com’s latest product introduction, read stories like this one from Forbes: “Why the Amazon Fire phone could be a smartphone game-changer.”
Truth is, we know how the media handles these things. It’s not as simple as saying that they are merely going to hype a new product to the heavens. That’s only part of what they do. What they actually do is more complex, but predictable. Call it the four stages of stock hype:
You’ve lived (and died) through this one before. Weeks before a product is unfurled, the superlatives fly. Here’s Apple’s iPhone 6 :“The new iPhone could be one of the most pivotal devices in the Cupertino brand’s history ,” said techradar.phones, in a typically panting appraisal. Worse, during this stage, we get a guessing game of cartoonish proportions about the product’s new features, which no one knows for certain.
No one knows anything for certain, of course, which does not stop anyone. At one point Computerworld even wrote, “assuming the Sept. 9 day is correct.” Media standards have fallen to the point where all traders see is the sausage-making of journalism. Never mind waiting until they have confirmation of what the phone will be like — or even the launch date — we’ll just tell you that we don’t know and then tell you precisely what we don’t know.
That’s what the hyperbole and heavy breathing stage is all about. Even media outlets that purport to be above such rumor mongering, through a clever rhetoric trick, do so anyway. The New York Times will not report individual rumors, but hold its nose while reporting on the process, throwing the individual rumors out along the way.
“The iPhone 6 Rumors Heat Up,” said the Times, before qualifying the rumors by saying that they’ll only “prove to be true” if photographs floating around the Interwebs prove to be true. All The News That’s Fit to Punt.
Speaking of turgid, we won’t give voice to rumors in this space. Suffice it to say the new iPhone is going to be smaller or bigger, have better of worse battery life and may contain first strike nuclear capabilities. If it can order me a pizza, I’ll be happy.
As the actual release date approaches, Apple will want to more finely calibrate expectations. At that point, information will leak. Wild rumors will abound, but coverage will generally be more contained and credible.
Once the product is introduced but before its actually released, the media are faced with a quandary: How do you write about an exciting product you haven’t handled for long? Easy: Just do it. That’s why coverage in the immediate aftermath of a release tends to be as overheated as the original coverage.
In may take a week or two after the actual product release, but eventually the media will return to what passes for its senses. Intellectually, that’s when it’s safe to go back into the water. After a couple of weeks, it was even hard to find a media report that took the Fire Phone all that seriously.
The media will play many different angles on the new iPhone. Just don’t get caught up in it. Unless you enjoy playing the fool.