New Media inevitably becomes Old Media

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

Over the past 10 years the people who have gotten new Apple products1 has shifted significantly. It used to be major newspapers were first in line to get everything, and they would have the exclusive first reviews out of the gate whenever a new product launched. 10 years ago Apple bloggers and podcasters had to order iPhones and Macs just like everyone else and their reviews and impressions would come days to weeks later.

Over time, these bloggers and podcasters gained popularity and influence over the Apple narrative online. A shout out from John Gruber, for example, could influence the opinions of hundreds of thousands of people on a new product. At the time, people like me were wondering why the hell people like John and other tech publications didn’t get treated with the respect they deserved. Their influence was far greater than many in “old media” realized. Apple saw this and started to shift their strategy with who gets early hardware. Major newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal still had huge reach and got early access to hardware, but now the main source for people with even a single technical bone in their body turned to The Verge, Daring Fireball, Tech Crunch, and the like. These “new media” destinations were where the people who would evangelize and talk about this stuff in a more human-relatable way were working.

Yesterday Apple made a noticeable shift again in how their review embargo and hardware access worked. Most major newspapers and tech blogs got their phones yesterday (late, but that’s another story) and had an embargo for this morning on publishing first impressions. In addition to this now traditional lineup of reviewers, Apple also made the phone available in a limited hands on experience to a number of smaller, but influential YouTubers (and a couple websites). The response from some in the tech press were a bit perturbed by this.

But here’s the deal, those “stupid” YouTubers are the new “new media” and they’re doing exactly what tech blogs did a few years ago. They’re learning to speak to consumers in a more human and helpful way. And even through these YouTubers got to talk about the iPhone X yesterday, basically all of them (maybe actually all of them) didn’t get to keep the phone, they just got to have under and hour with the phone and then got to blaze through recording and editing a video to put up on the same day. They’re still not getting quite the same treatment as “full reviewers” who actually got a review unit from Apple that they could take home and use for a few weeks to get full impressions.

I’m exited Apple is changing up their strategy for who gets to have early access to the new iPhones. They should be doing this, and they’re doing it because they understand the power that even smaller channels can have. Frankly, the more bizarre part of this review embargo is that most people didn’t even get the phone until yesterday. Usually these are given out a week ahead of time so full reviews, not just first impressions, can be up when the embargo drops.

The cycle is always the same, though. New Media turns into Old Media, and it’s hard for those on the inside to notice it’s happening. The new guys (and gals!) from 10 years ago are now old hat. They’re great, and the work they do is usually fantastic, but one can not stay in that new and exciting phase forever. New people are coming up in the tech press, usually though YouTube these days, and they’re shaking up the industry. Just like Gruber, Viticci, and many more did over the past decade, and how Mossberg did decades earlier. This has happened before and it will happen again, and it’s just how the world works. My hope is I can still be a part of this new wave of pundits even in the video-first present we’re living in right now 😄.

  1. We’re talking Apple today but this goes for basically all tech products these days.