Tech News, "Fanboys," and the Attention Shadow Economy
I've seen a bunch of people flipping out about the attached post--both here and on Facebook--and bickering about what it does or doesn't mean. The comments on the article itself are full of contributions like "omfg fanboys" and "how much is apple paying you for this?" This suggests to me that people don't understand how ad-driven digital commerce works. This is an amazing object lesson. Here's what I mean.
Is Businesses Insider
(lulz) or any other big publication published by systematically biased "fanboys?" No, of course not. Are they taking kickbacks? No, of course not. There's a really simple reason for this: they don't need to.
What they need to do--and what they're succeeding wildly at doing--is post controversial fluff pieces that draw distressed partisans on both sides of a conflict, get them to look at the article, and sell advertising. In this case, they're drawing in both diehard Apple customers and diehard Android customers to the same vapid article
just through the headline. That's how they make money. They don't care about Apple, Android, or even the veracity of their content except insofar as it helps them leverage clicks to sell ads.
When I started writing this post, I did a Google search for other BI posts about the same topic, guessing that I'd find something saying more-or-less the opposite of this with similar language. I could not possibly have been more hilariously correct.
After telling us things like "Apple is the rich man's brand," and "Apple users just tend to be better off than Android users," look at this post on the same site from 15 hours later: http://www.businessinsider.my/android-wear-vs-apple-watch-which-should-you-buy-2015-4/#q4GPLR7dutuHMPs1.97
("9 Ways Android Wear is Better Than the Apple Watch ")
This is an almost diametrically opposed message, presented in equally provocative terms. This isn't balance, and it isn't journalistic integrity--it's a carefully calculated commercial strategy to draw exactly the same group of readers in twice, but for opposite-seeming reasons. And it works. It works really, really well. Just look at all the angry comments.
They don't need kickbacks. They're not marketing Apple, and they're not not marketing Google. They're not reporting. They're flashing a red cape, letting people charge, and basking in the applause of their real customers: their advertisers. They're not selling devices or even information: they're selling access to your attention.
They're making money off of your outrage, and you're getting nothing in return.
They're so good at it, most people don't even notice.