Apple just proclaimed itself the savior of journalism. Shame on us.
The #AppleEvent headlines are asking what it means for Netflix or gaming or credit cards or mocking how long the event lasted.
Me? As each product was announced, I got queasier.
Because being distracted by how hokey and inauthentic the extended sales pitch might be, you could miss this: Apple has won the Attention Economy.
They were already products, services, hardware — so gigantic that many are simply mocking the announcements or deriding Apple for getting away from who the critics think Apple is.
I don’t think they get it.
Being in a billion pockets wasn’t enough. Attention is finite, scarce and valuable. By keeping us in that one space, their space, they just created a comprehensive, comfortable, safe ecosystem.
In touting how much money it will save us; how much they’ll help creatives and game developers; how much easier they’ll make shopping; how much safer they’ll make banking; how much they will protect your privacy; how much they’ll enhance family unity; how much they value artists and storytellers; how great the TV experience will be; how you won’t get fed ads; how they will change the world through stories; how they’ll make a difference in children’s lives and make them smarter; how they’ve created a “safe place to explore together”; how cool it will be for sports fans; how much more fun life will be, how much they care about the “power of journalism, and the impact it can have on our lives,” it might be easy to forget that in buying this, we’ve been bought.
Between Apple News and Apple News+ and Apple Card and Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade and everything else, why would you need to leave?
I love my complicated life being made less complicated. But what I love more? Well-funded, independent journalism. With competition for your attention already fierce, the digital ad revenue game essentially lost, and the battle for subscription revenue so desperately engaged, I just knew. Game over, kids.
Because while plenty of Apple fans and Apple Event critics are poking at it, and I felt a bit like I was being assimilated to the Borg, what they’ve announced is flat-out impressive.
They have Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell doing a news show! And Sesame Street teaching kids to code! And Sara Bareilles singing anthems! And Steven Spielberg re-creating an inspiration from his childhood! And that hot Dothraki guy from Game of Thrones standing there looking hot!
It isn’t that simplistic, but it isn’t complicated. In the ABCs of what Apple just sold you, it’s all about the Cs.
Community, connection, convenience, celebrity, confidentiality, credibility, comedy, civility, competition, content, celebration, curation, customers, conversation, coin … And what it means for civilization.
Because the intention is to account for #allthethings and for them to be controlled and curated in one place by one company.
As I listened to celebrity after celebrity announce their parts, I got that whooshing sound in my head.
“To change the world through storytelling.”
“That’s what makes us special, is the tapestry of human beings.”
“Universal human state to search for meaning.”
“Great stories can change the world.”
“When you get to know each other and know their struggles … you stop seeing them as the other.”
“There is no such thing as the other, there is only us … this is the America I was promised.”
The smartest journalists I know have been preaching the freaking, urgent, dire, vital need for those “Cs” I talked about above to save journalism.
That we’ve begged, fought, cajoled for decades of the importance to do what it took Apple to figure out.
To create a community, that enlightens, educates, entertains and engages. To make our lives easier, our families more connected. To change our world for the better. Make a difference through kindness, compassion, honesty. To hold the powerful accountable. To protect and uphold our precious democracy.
As the whooshing in my ears was subsiding, even as my sadness for the craft was growing, Apple brought out the true oracle to say this:
“We all crave connection. The search for common ground. To harness our hopes and dreams. To heal our divisions.”
Oprah. They have Oprah. For goodness sake.
Tim Cook was quick to remind us how much he admires quality journalism and how important it is. How Apple News, launched just three years ago — “news from trusted sources, curated by experts” — is the #1 news app, with 5 billion stories read each month.
So you almost forget that what all the heart-warming videos, moving stories, singing celebrities, poetic pitching and world’s biggest book club means? Tim Cook will give journalism a few pennies for our pleasure of making all that vital work tied with a pretty bow.
Just one question: How did we let Tim Cook become the Jesus of Journalism?
Mi-Ai Parrish is a longtime media executive, former publisher of the Arizona Republic, Kansas City Star and Idaho Statesman. She is the Sue Clark-Johnson Professor in Media Innovation and Leadership at Arizona State University. She wrote this on her iPhone.