Sep 13

CNN plays the “Apple is failing” card again

Apparently, there isn’t much real news left in the world.

Why else would CNN present an ill-reasoned opinion piece as a front-page news story?

Oh, right. Because another “Apple is in serious trouble” story is always good for a few clicks.

With the scent of CNN’s recent Apple-doubting articles still in the air, this link was listed among the news headlines yesterday: Apple’s innovation problem is real.

Unfortunately, the only reality one can take from this article is that two writers can write a more vapid article than one.

Julianne Pepitone and Adrian Covert gave it their all, starting with the caption under the main photo:

Apple is rumored to be working on a smartwatch and an “iTV,” but they’re niche products when compared to the iPhone and iPad.

Good grief. In an article just eight days prior, the very same CNN quotes a study that says the smartwatch market will increase almost fourfold in 2014 to $94.8 million, and then climb to a whopping $12 billion by 2020.

And television? Now there’s a niche market for you. As far as I can tell from my meager Googling, there are only 1.5 billion TVs in the world.

The bold subhead to the article elaborates on the headline, adding “substance” to the doubts about Apple’s ability to innovate:

Apple’s innovation problem is real. And it’s unlikely to silence the critics if it simply unveils multi-colored iPhones on Tuesday.

Bingo! If multi-colored iPhones are the only news tomorrow, I think we can all officially give up on Apple. However — I have this odd feeling that somehow, possibly, there just might be a bit more substance in Tuesday’s event. In fact, so does CNN. Just this morning, one day after this silly article appeared, they put up another story rounding up the new things Apple is likely to announce.

I won’t even blame Julianne and Adrian for that subhead. I’ll blame their editor. He/she is the one who is supposed to stop the writers from embarrassing themselves and CNN.

But it gets richer.

After pointing out that it will be tough to shake things up with a smartwatch or iTV, they explain that Apple doesn’t always invent things from scratch. It didn’t invent the PC, the MP3 player, the smartphone or tablet. It finds a market where competitors are stumbling, then steps in with “a highly-refined device full of features nobody has seen before.”

So — while Apple, the non-inventor, has revolutionized four categories with this method, that somehow isn’t going to work in the smartwatch and TV markets. Both of which currently feature competitors who have failed to capture the public imagination.

The writers distill it down to the essence for us: The problem for Apple is that the markets it’s about to jump into are all unproven.

Indeed. Just as it was a terrible problem when Apple jumped into the horribly unproven markets for music players, smartphones and tablets.

Of the “hot trend” of smartwatches, the writers say:

The wearable space is still extremely young, and Apple has to worry about both delivering a polished solution and convincing the masses that these devices are as necessary as laptops or smartphones.

Exactly. Because Apple certainly didn’t do that with tablets, did it.

Then the exciting conclusion:

Now does Apple need to latch on to every new tech trend to stay relevant? Not at all. But to focus entirely on its established products doesn’t seem like a smart strategy either.

Hmm. After explaining that smartwatches and iTV — products they believe Apple is working on — aren’t likely to succeed, they advise Apple that it shouldn’t focus entirely on existing products. Geez, make up your mind.

Honestly, you have to search real far and wide to find analysis this shoddy.

Don’t get me wrong. People are free to voice their opinions. It’s a free country. The only thing wrong here is that CNN continues to present these wacky opinion pieces as actual news — which only serves to confuse those who don’t follow technology as closely as we do.

CNN categorizes its front page stories under three simple titles: The Latest, More Top Stories and Opinion.

Please, CNN. Put the opinion pieces under the Opinion header. It’s not that hard.

Oh, and you’ll get extra points if those opinions had a bit of intelligence going for them.


  • jameskatt

    Face it. Julianne and Adrian are simply shoddy, dishonest, yellow-journalistic writers. They reflect CNN’s philosophy of sensationalism for eyeballs.

  • CNN ranks near the bottom of reliable new agencies today, just above CNBC. Why even write a story about old, irrelavent media?

  • Andrew

    While I completely agree with Ken Segall on all this, I don’t understand why he’d waste breath on it. The last thing needed in the realm of public opinion is another crusader against media idiocy. I’d rather see Ken give perspective on more interesting tech subjects.

  • Andrew

    Actually, I would really like Ken’s perspective on today’s news that Apple is doubling the size of its marketing department. I have to say, I’ve found Schiller’s handling of Apple’s messaging to be really shoddy. The before/after Steve’s death has been jarring. Most of their stuff, with the exception of that cute iPad Mini piano ad, has been really awful since 2011.

  • WFA67

    This reminds me of the following from Warren Buffett re why Berkshire does not split its stock:

    “If the holders of a company’s stock and/or the prospective buyers attracted to it are prone to make irrational or emotion-based decisions, some pretty silly stock prices are going to appear periodically. Manic-depressive personalities produce manic-depressive valuations…But we think it is in both your interest and ours to minimize their occurrence in the market for Berkshire.”

    Journalists get paid to write stories. No drama, no story.

    So…get worked up, get paid?

  • iLove

    This is nothing new but wondering how much the journalists of Bloomberg, CNN, CNBC, The Street get paid to bash Apple?. Couple thousand of dollars, perhaps?. If it was couple of thousand of dollars which they selling their souls so cheap. hahaha.

  • HectorBarbossa

    should I let my shares to go ???

  • ksegall

    When Steve was personally involved with marketing, working with Apple was a unique and wonderful thing. No layers of approval. One very high standard for the advertising.

    Without Steve, it can’t possibly be the same. I don’t know, but I suspect that Apple’s advertising development process will become more traditional— with multiple approvers and shootouts between internal teams and different agencies.

    It takes someone with the confidence of Steve Jobs to keep the process simple and creative standards high.

    Who knows what kind of system Apple will set up now. But an old advertising saying comes to mind: “Clients get exactly the advertising they deserve.”

  • moofer

    The “C” used to stand for “Cable” but now it stands for “Commentary” – I blame that loud-mouth, Nancy Grace.

  • I believe Apple’a marketing dept. doubling reflects on the Samsung enormous advertising expenses.

  • ksegall

    When you hear talk about Samsung’s marketing budget being 3X-4X time that of Apple, it’s mostly talking about media purchased: TV, print, web, radio, etc. The size of the group of people producing all this work is a drop in the bucket compared to the media costs.

  • Acronotus

    Perhaps CNN should put their opinion pieces under The Onion header. It might be more understandable there.

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  • Gary Deezy

    Thank you, once again, for being the voice of reason.

  • Andrew

    I would add, with a bit of naive hopefulness, that Apple’s functional organization style allows them to change their approach to marketing if they find that their extremely vocal evangels (like us) complain about them enough. For example, the Genius campaign getting the lights turned out almost immediately. I think Apple has great ads still left in them, but I think they’ll be interspersed with some dumb stuff.

  • Neil

    Give Ken a break. There’s too much bad Apple “journalism” for the Macalope to cover. He needs all the help he can get!

  • ksegall

    Wow, thanks. Don’t think I get accused of that too often :)

  • ksegall

    Like everyone else, I see a lot of really dumb things said about Apple. But I rarely feel it’s necessary to write anything about it. (And the Macalope does such a great job.)

    However, despite what a number of people have said here, I don’t think CNN is a terrible organization. I think they’re basically a good news source — but they do have have to compete for an audience.

    So it disappoints me when I see them try to pass off these opinions as news. And while I do recognize everyone’s right to an opinion, I do expect a major news organization to at least present an intelligent opinion. The article I criticized here is ridiculous on more levels than I can count.

    I’d like to think it’s an aberration, but this is the third time in recent weeks that they’ve gone for the cheap clicks. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself :)

  • As the guy who works in marketing agency I perfectly see your point Ken but perhaps Apple wants to in house video production team. I’m trying to guess what these extra people maybe involved with? I mean Apple isn’t the kind of company that hires people for the sake of hiring.

  • But you defintely should be! Your Instanely Simple book is on my bookshelf in iBooks next to the Steve’s bio. Awesome book!

  • ksegall

    My sources tell me that Apple is expanding its creative services to take on more and more of the creative development and execution that’s traditionally been done by its agency. They already have sophisticated production facilities. They’re definitely not hiring for the sake of hiring — there’s a conscious effort to bring much of this work in-house.

  • Faysal Sulatch SPHR PHR

    I second that.

  • Andrew

    Just after my several disdainful posts, Apple comes out with that fantastic ad for iPhone 5C. Great tag line at the end too, “For the Colorful”. Cute.

  • gkotsis

    The answer to CNN’s approach is provided by the managing editor of CNN.com, in a brutally honest way:


  • gkotsis

    of course this is fake, but I claim it is as also true