Leading up to Apple’s highly-anticipated announcement of its iPad today, virtually every technology and consumer news outlet had produced preview stories. Now that Steve Jobs has confirmed the news and ushered the media into a reviews frenzy, we can extract a few communications lessons about what Apple did right to garner so much attention for a late-to-market tablet device. (For more of a business perspective, I highly recommend reading Michael Gartenberg’s Engadget post.)
1. iPhone success helped insert Apple into early, competitive tablet coverage. Times Online’s Dominic Rushe and James Ashton had this to say after CES: “TWO years ago, Apple dominated CES by doing nothing. All the chatter was about the imminent launch of its iPhone after the show. This year Apple did it again… The company has said nothing, confirmed nothing, even iSlate’s name is really speculation, but once more Apple was the talk of Vegas.”
Erica Ogg of CNET reported, “A tablet or slate computer from Apple was basically all anyone wanted to talk about [at CES], and it’s not even a confirmed product yet… Apple’s managed to turn the attention of the entire tech world away from tech’s biggest stage without actually doing or saying anything.”
Although Kindle, Nook and a slew of tablet devices have been in the market (Kindle was announced in May 2009), Apple has been able to dominate competitive coverage for months because of its iPhone legacy. The iPad was positioned as an extension to the success of the iPhone, and that only perpetuated the anticipation.
2. Apple let leaks do the talking for them. “Trusted sources” were frequently referenced as sources for news leaks on blogs and in social media, which kept the buzz alive. Reporters and bloggers were reaching to the depths of patent filing and long-lost interviews searching for clues. Everyone loves a treasure hunt, and Apple let the media chase after its own X on the metaphorical map.
On the evening before the announcement, McGraw-Hill’s CEO confirmed that his company has been working on content distribution for an Apple tablet, saying, “We have worked with Apple for quite a while… The tablet is going to be just really terrific.” The leak created another news cycle ahead of the event and only increased the anticipation and fever for Apple.
3. Apple maintained product secrecy. Notice how no preview story ahead of the event featured an Apple spokesperson. Apple never commented on the tablet rumors. Apple’s partners (with exception of McGraw-Hill) never commented on the device. Considering this was probably the most media-hyped announcement since the iPhone, there was a lot of pressure on a lot of people and companies in the know. However, the Apple ecosystem kept the calm before the storm and never put itself in a scenario that compromised the secrecy of the product announcement.
4. Apple delivered a worthy launch event. All eyes were on Apple last week. “iSlate,” “iTablet,” “#apple” and “Apple Tablet” dominated Twitter trending topics ahead of the event. Every major news outlet with access live-blogged or live-streamed the event.
Considering Apple shared the same news day as President Obama’s State of the Union address, the media attention was that much more impressive. And now we know, finally, that we can stream future State of the Union addresses on an Apple iPad.