Beware, journalists: Apple is not your friend

Decades ago I read a business book by Robert Ringer called "Winning Through Intimidation." Ringer is a political kook (he's gotten much worse over the years) and more than a bit paranoid, but he sounded a warning that should be the first rule of commerce for every consumer and every businessperson: Everybody else at the table is out to take your chips.

Apple fanbois need to understand this. Apple is not your friend. Google fanbois need to understand this: Google is not your friend. Microsoft is not your friend. And so on.

But it's not just the fanbois. When you hear that Apple is working on a new service to "revolutionize" newspapers, the right response is to check your wallet and make sure the doors are locked, not break out the champagne. Journalists and publishers, Apple is not your friend.

We all make this mistake. Life is like a big card game. They're after your chips.

Steve Jobs may be a megalomaniac, but don't blame it on him, because this isn't his fault. This is how corporations work. It's fundamental.

A corporation is a legal "person" with many of the rights that you and I have, but having no conscience and operating only for its own benefit. If a human being acted like a corporation, we'd lock him or her up in a prison or mental institution as a psychopath. It has no care for others. Its only imperative is self-interest (to deliver profits to shareholders) and it will destroy others in its path in its relentless drive to get bigger and richer.

This is why we have laws that regulate corporations -- the laws that are constantly under attack by political forces that are funded by the corporations and billionaire investors through lobbyists, Washington "think tanks" and astroturf political movements.

This should not be new to us. Edward, first baron of Thurlow and lord chancellor of England from 1731 to 1806, had corporations pegged from the start. "Did you ever expect a corporation to have a conscience, when it has no soul to be damned, and no body to be kicked?" he asked (as quoted by H.L. Mencken).

Did you see Newsday's wonderfully funny commercial for its iPad app? It gushes about how "the new Newsday app is better than the newspaper in all kinds of ways"  ... except for one, as the dad in the video smashes the iPad by trying to swat a fly.

It was all over the Internet for a day or so. Then, according to Network World, Newsday received a letter from Apple's lawyers threatening to pull "all of our apps" from the iTunes marketplace.

Fun's over. Abuse of power? Evil corporation? It's in their nature. Doesn't make any difference whether the corporation is Apple, Google, the cellphone companies, or even BP. They are not your friend.

I called Robert Ringer a political kook and a bit paranoid. You can check that out in a few minutes with Google and form your own opinion. But never forget: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.


I may not agree with their decision, but Apple has the right to decide how is their product shown in commercials. I thought Newsweek ad was clever and funny, but I am not responsible for iPad brand image. What is much more dangerous is Apple's tight control over apps and content it allows customers to use on their devices. It is no longer enough for a publisher to deliver content the user is interested in -- if Apple doesn't like it, that content will not reach the customer using Apple devices.

No, Apple doesn't have a right to determine, by force, how their devices are portrayed in commercials or in pop culture. If Apple wants a positive portrayal, they can earn it through friendly, non-adversarial relations with the world at large instead of loosing the hounds of litigiousness. Right now, Apple are earning opprobrium and losing sales to HTC and myriad Chinese makers of generic tablet computers because they're being authoritarian dickheads.

@Sar - Sorry I don't agree. Apple doesn't have the right to decide how other companies choose to depict its products in commercials. It does have the right to choose how it deals in its relationship with a company showing its products in ways it doesn't like. There's a word for exercising this right in such a petty and vindictive way - it's called bullying. You have a right as a consumer to decide whether you strengthen the bully - by buying its products and ceding more power to Apple. If company's did have the right to decide how others depict their products in advertising, Microsoft would never have allowed Apple to make the "I'm a Mac" series of advertisement. In the context of those ads, Apple's move against Newsday is simple hypocrisy.

As a long time businessman in the audio field, I can assure you that Apple has long been known as a six hundred pound gorilla. We talk of two types of products that a retailer can sell, one a "push" and the other a "pull." The difference is in the strength of the brand. If a brand generates enough interest among the general public to cause buyers to seek it out, it's a pull. Buyer demand pulls it out the retailer's door. A push is a brand that is worthwhile in the retailer's mind, but must be sold to the public because consumer demand is inadequate. I have seen numerous suppliers fail who have brought to market an innovative product superior in every way, including value, to a gorilla's but who lacked the resources to overcome Gorilla's grip. Apple is certainly not the only gorilla, but it may well be the heaviest. Any time a retailer wastes Apple's valuable time questioning any of its terms or tactics, the Apple representative need only look over the retailer's shoulder, dismiss him, and shout, "Next!" to another eager merchant. I could go on and on about gorillas; they've made many lives miserable (including mine at times). The world wide web has provided the healthiest of all diets for them; they now need worry not at all about any merchant getting in the way of their message. But ultimately folks, the problem is with us. We have never been a very rational consumer society; at this point we are so irrational as to be insane. We want the best product of all those available at an unimaginably low price and we want it with no delay. The health of a merchant or our economy as a whole be damned. That leaves us wide open to the "bullies" who are skilled enough to give us what we crave or to make us believe they are doing so.

I don't agree, Journalists and newspapers suffered of information commoditization and, at first they answered by closing doors and boycotting internet. Then they fell and open doors and are now discovering new markets challenges to face in the p2p information era. The point is not: "is Apple friend of newspapers and journalists"? it's instead: "are newspaper able to compete with the emerging p2p information channels?" Apple is facing the same threat right now: the commoditization of software and applications to any OEM thanks to things like Android. Apple is responding exercising some sort control over information to preserve some sort of hard controlled & unique product brand but will eventually loose market to emerging OEMs. Information wants to be free. Thank for posting it though. S.