Journalists May Be Biased Toward Apple

As big and as important as Microsoft is, the coverage of the company is quite mediocre. This is particularly true in the mainstream press.

The reason for this is that today's newspaper and magazine tech writers know little about computers and are all Mac users. It's a fact.

This is why when Microsoft actually does have a good idea, people look to trash it out of hand. With 90 percent of the mainstream writers being Mac users, what would you expect?

The top columnists in the news and business magazines fit this model too. The technology writers fit this model. The tech writers and tech columnists for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and Fortune are all Mac users. I could list them by name, but I'd hate to leave one out. Maybe I'll blog them by name. I could list 50.

Readers should thus not be surprised by the overcoverage of Apple Computer (search). Every time Steve Jobs (search) sneezes, there is a collective chorus of "Gesundheit" from tech writers pounding away on their Macs.

This reality is not going to change. In fact it will only get worse as technology coverage is handed to newer, less-qualified observers who simply cannot use a Microsoft Windows computer.

With no Microsoft-centric frame of reference, Microsoft cannot look good. The company essentially brought this on itself with various PR and marketing policies that discouraged knowledgeable coverage. I'll save those complaints for a future gripe session.

What's bad for Microsoft is that the bias against it is subtle — kind of like any sort of media bias, whether religious or political. As one critic once said regarding the supposed left-wing slant of the daily news media, "It's not what they write, it's what they write ABOUT that matters." Story selection.

Microsoft can roll out a dozen cool products, and the media goes ga-ga over the video iPod (search) — a rather late-to-market Apple product. They all swoon over the prospect of paying $2 to download an otherwise free TV show so they can have the privilege of watching it on a 2-inch screen.

The newsroom editors are generally so out of touch that they can't see this bias. Besides, they use Macs too. There are entire newsrooms, such as the one at Forbes, that consist entirely of Macintoshes. Apparently nobody but me finds this weird.

Even Jack Shafer, who recently wrote about Apple's skewed coverage in Slate, fails to point out the connection between the skewed coverage and the existence of this peculiar conflict of interest based on the national writers' use of Macs.

I often confront these guys with this assertion, and they, to a man (I've never confronted a female reporter about this), all say that they use a Mac "because it is better." Right. And that attitude doesn't affect coverage now, does it?

Now this phenomenon is nothing new. I mean the phenomenon that an analyst will compare everything to his or her personal preferences, and naturally do it to excess.

I first observed this during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, when all the writers, myself included, used WordStar (search). Everyone used WordStar. I would run into writers here and there and grill them about what they used. Anne Rice used WordStar, for example.

Thus, when a new word processor came out, it was naturally compared to WordStar and, unless it was a clone of WordStar, it was always given poor marks. It was only the catastrophic failure of the WordStar company that ever allowed the competition to take over.

Probably the smartest thing Microsoft could ever have done was copy as much of the Mac OS (search) as it could insofar as look and feel were concerned, since in the final analysis there were customers doing AB comparisons between the Mac and the PC—which kept the PC on the desktop. The PC was cheaper and seemed about the same functionally.

Microsoft should make some headway with this biased crowd once the fanciful Xbox 360 (search) arrives. It's got a creative GUI, is easy to use and navigate, and kind of has a Mac look to it. It also interfaces perfectly with the iPod. "Oh golly gee whiz wow!" And that feature alone will be the clincher.

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