As the knee-jerk reactions to Apple’s event yesterday announcing the iPhone 4S roll in, I’m seeing a common refrain. Many people—in an incredibly baffling move—have been using the smattering or lack of applause at the event to gauge response to the announcement. I’ve seen it over and over from major news organizations down to niche tech blogs and it is very odd.
But, in the interest of over-analyzing everything, which is what I do, I’ll break it down so that we can all stop referencing this as some sort of meter to measure the reception of the new iPhone.
Most journalists don’t applaud product announcements.
Clapping for the entrance of a much-loved executive or in appreciation of an individual is often done at events, many times simply to be polite. If Steve Jobs had walked out on that stage yesterday, you can bet that the audience would have applauded. That would have been for a lot of reasons including the long history that many journalists in attendance have with the visionary and polarizing CEO, as well as the continued concerns about his health as a person.
But applauding for the announcement of a product is something that you simply won’t find most trained journalists doing. An enthusiast attending an Apple event or a blogger who specializes in covering Apple announcements might very well do so and there is no real reason why doing so is evil, but if you’re there as a journalist covering the event, why are you clapping for a new product?
As someone who is there to cover the news and to act as an interpreter of what it means for your readers, your job is to pass the information given to you by the presenter along to your readers with analysis and hopefully, through a lens of truth. If you’re applauding like crazy at an event, you’re not doing your image of objectivity any favors.
Apple’s event yesterday was also held at a much smaller venue than usual. The Apple Town Hall Auditorium holds far less people, 250 by some counts, than Apple’s normal venues for these events, the Yerba Buena center or the Moscone Center, both in San Francisco. As a result, the seating was much more limited and the people invited were carefully picked.
There were no thousands of WWDC attendees, many of them unabashed fans of Apple and developers whose livelihood depend on Apple releasing killer devices people want to buy. Instead, it was a room full of, primarily, journalists.
Therefore, it stands to reason that while you might get more applause than usual at an event (look at the Kindle Fire introduction for comparison) it would be far less than a ‘standard’ Apple event.
Frankly, if you’re applauding like crazy at an event, whooping and hollering when anyone—regardless of turtleneck—is announcing a product, I’m not all that sure that I can trust your opinion on that device.