Apple is a huge company. It’s the greatest corporate American success story since…well ever. It’s so big and successful that it has indirectly created whole other industries, including accessories manufacturers, software developers, and even blogging and podcasting networks that almost exclusively cover Apple.
Think about that for a bit. Apple is so successful that there are people who make a living just talking about Apple. Not even journalism, just chatter and speculation.
It’s 2012 and one of the surest ways to make sure your thing, whatever it is, gets noticed is to somehow tie it in with Apple. Go to any tradeshow and you’ll probably see companies running promotions giving away the newest Apple gadgets. Walk by a newsstand and you’ll see a bunch of magazine covers with Apple products on them. They know you’ll look.
Tying in with something remarkable, like Apple, is the lazy way to get noticed. Mike Daisey must have known this when he created his Steve Jobs show. What better way to gain interest, on a national scale, than to create and perform a show about Apple and its CEO? We were interested in his show the same way we were, and are, interested in Apple rumor websites. And Daisey rode those coattails to the top, at least for a little while.
But certainly it wasn’t just about the latest gadget, it was about who built the gadget, and that’s where Daisey pulls at our heart strings by conjuring, out of thin air, the poor working conditions he said he witnessed. It’s easy to understand how a story like that could appeal to This American Life: devices we use everyday and how we turn a blind eye to how they’re built.
So no wonder this episode of TAL was one of its most popular. It, perhaps unintentionally, also rode the Apple coattails to the top. And the retraction episode has a good chance of becoming more popular. It’s necessary that they do this to restore their journalistic integrity, but I have mixed feelings about participating in another round of Apple-associated wave riding.
But I also want to hear Ira Glass tear into Daisey a bit, so maybe I’ll end up listening after all.