New York Times’ Apple iPod articles reveal very similar formula

The New York Times is at it again, literally. We’re struck by the similarities between two separate New York Times articles regarding Apple iPod. So struck are we, in fact, that we can’t let it go without first analyzing the formula that NY Times writers seem to have concocted.

The formula:
1. Find a disaffected anti-iPod voice from the appropriate age group.
2. Quote lone anti-iPodder liberally in order to make their sentiment appear important.
3. Highlight alternatives to Apple’s iPod in-depth.

Let’s compare, shall we?

From the New York Times: October 5, 2006 by Wilson Rothman:
When Max Roosevelt wanted to rebel, he got a Dell laptop and a SanDisk Sansa MP3 player. It wasn’t a rebellion against his parents, who had been buying Dells for years. It was a rebellion against his peers, Mac-toting iPod addicts one and all.

From the New York Times: November 1, 2006 by Roy Furchgott:
Iman Hayward is an 18-year-old college student and self-confessed contrarian. She likes to mix Cyberdog T-shirts with platform boots. She prefers vintage horror movies to modern remakes. And she does not like the Apple iPod.

NYT, October 5, Rothman:
“I just didn’t want to have the same MP3 player as everybody else and felt that there had to be equivalent or better players out there,” Roosevelt, an 18-year-old from Chappaqua, N.Y., said recently in his freshman dorm room at the University of Maryland.

NYT, November 1, Furchgott:
“I was kind of anti-iPod because everybody had it,” said Ms. Hayward, who lives in the Bronx.

NYT, October 5, Rothman:
“It’s not that I don’t like it; I just don’t like the whole cult mentality toward Apple. I don’t like how everyone gravitates toward it immediately.”

NYT, November 1, Furchgott:
That is not to say she dislikes portable music players. In fact, on Nov. 14 she will wait in line, if needed, to be among the first to own Microsoft’s iPod alternative, the Zune — in the fudge-brown case, no less. “I’m going to be waving it in front of my friends’ faces,” she said. “They all have iPods.”

NYT, October 5, Rothman:
While it may seem as if Roosevelt is the only one not buying Apple, the iPod’s domestic market share in flash-memory players actually amounted to 68 percent during the first eight months of the year, according to the NPD Group, a research firm. In other words, nearly one-third of the flash-memory MP3 players sold were made by someone else. SanDisk’s products accounted for 14 percent of sales, and the remainder was shared by Creative, Samsung, iRiver and a few others.

NYT, November 1, Furchgott:
The people at Microsoft are hoping that people like Ms. Hayward will give them reason to gloat this holiday season, too. They are not the only ones. Other makers of portable media players have also introduced new products, hoping to grab a big piece of the market that the iPod dominates.

NYT, October 5, Rothman:
The iPod Nano may represent an irresistible combination of enticing design, futuristic technology and sledgehammer marketing, but does Roosevelt have a point? Are other players more advanced or more fun to use? An examination of four non-Nanos suggests there are praises to be sung outside Apple’s realm.

NYT, November 1, Furchgott:
In trying to break iPod’s dominion, manufacturers are trying out new features and revamped services to fill their devices with music and give buyers more choices than they have had in the past. The most notable addition is the Zune.

NYT, October 5, Rothman:
The four all had features not found in a Nano, such as larger screens, built-in FM receivers and microphones for dictation. Each can play videos, provided they’re converted to an appropriate format using PC software.

NYT, November 1, Furchgott:
Physically larger than the iPod, the Zune has a hard case finished in a rubbery matte coating. Its 3-inch color screen is larger than the 2½-inch screen of video iPods, but the biggest difference is the built-in Wi-Fi transceiver that lets Zune owners (Zunis?) share music, photo and video files. It also has a radio receiver, and users can choose any photo from their files to put on the color screen.

Both writers then delve into the respective devices they are covering, citing both pros and cons, while comparing and contrasting with Apple’s iPod models along the way.

NYT, October 5, Rothman’s wrap-up:
For more than a year, Roosevelt used a Rio Carbon player and listened only to MP3 files that had no copy protection. When the Carbon broke down, he learned that its manufacturer had left the business, unable to compete with Apple. Determined to steer clear of Apple, he bought his 6-gigabyte Sansa last June. “It may look a great deal like an iPod Nano, but it isn’t one, which is all that I really cared about,” he said.

NYT, November 1, Furchgott’s wrap-up:
Sadly for iPod bashers, it doesn’t look as though these products will overtake Apple this year, said Debra Russell, who heads the portable media player department for Best Buy, which is starting its own online music store with SanDisk and Rhapsody. “If we think about our go-to, it’s the Apple,” she said, adding that people still like Apple’s colors, designs and will buy more than one iPod. “With Apple,” she said, “people come back in for the latest, greatest products.”

Rothman’s article, reprinted in full by The San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday here.

Furchgott’s article via today’s New York Times here.
Hey, at least they had somewhat different endings, even if the basic conclusion is the same: people who quixotically choose inferior solutions solely to be different won’t threaten Apple’s iPod+iTunes, even if they do seem to be assured of getting quoted by The New York Times.

Think Different only works when different is better. Get a Mac.

We’d like to see The New York Times examine the origins of these so-called “Zune enthusiast” websites that have sprung up recently – magically without a shipping device about which to be enthused (Furchgott’s article even mentions that “Zune has inspired several fan Web sites” and includes their URLs without a question as to why they exist). Microsoft doing more than a little astroturfing, perhaps? But, then again, examining and possibly exposing something like that would require actual work by journalists from an organization with financial clout that’s capable of finding and breaking real news.

Related articles:
NY Times: Apple iPod also-rans run race for second place [UPDATED] – November 01, 2006
Rebelling against Apple iPod+iTunes? – October 05, 2006


  1. As a Mac/Apple/iPod user you are getting a taste of what the NYTs does in support of liberals, and in opposition to anyone not AS liberal. They haven’t reported the news for years, instead they have become news makers.

    They aren’t reporters, they’re shills.

  2. I don’t get it. Why does the NY Times care which digital music player sells the most? Shouldn’t they just tell us, rather than spinning the story one way or the other with iPod “rebels”?

    I understand political spin in journalism, because there it’s an ideological battle, but spinning tech products one way or another? Weird.

  3. Americans have been brainwashed into to believing that the MSM is liberal…. deception folks, at best it’s moderate, e.g., gay and abortion rights… that’s only because they don’t threaten wealth concentration like labor relations, peace, and ecological issues do. Meeting liberals in power you have to leave the USA, there aren’t any left… being Liberal in the US is a hazard to your life, ask the Wellstone family.

  4. My prediction: Newspapers like the “New York Slimes” will virtually cease to exist by the end of this decade. (Precipitous declines in the subscription base nationwide are already evident and making headlines elsewhere.)

    Most are little more than publishing arms of the two political parties (the overwhelming majority adhering to the Liberal/Progressive doctrine) anyway, and the dwindling supply of American readership is turning elsewhere for its information.

    After all, if you’re going to be propagandized, why not pick the flavor you enjoy?

  5. “There is only one thing worse then being mentioned – Not being mentioned.”


    “There is no such thing as bad publicity”

    Wait for the fake (MS paid) “I love my Zune” articles. Then the real world “my Zune is #$%^” articles.

    Meanwhile the rest of the world will move on to their next iPod, ignoring the NYT.

    I’m more tied to iPod because of the dock connector (speakers, car chargers, Nike, etc) than the FairPlay DRM, just like I am tied to Nokia because of the chargers.

  6. Sounds more like, to me, that this is a function of the Micro$oft marketing machine. Propaganda spoon fed to “journalists” who then make it seem like they thought of it themselves.

    Has anyone checked out whether these people referenced in the articles actually exist? Were they paid by Micro$oft (or Micro$oft’s proxy) to say these things? As dumb as this sounds, I only mention it because Micro$oft has verifiably done this before (remember the Micro$oft sponsored Switcher “testimonials”.

  7. I cut them some slack here. iPod is so successful that this contrarian angle actually adds some interest to what would otherwise be a boring (Headline: iPod Dominates Marketplace Again This Month) story.

    Also, considering the advantages of the iPod devices and ecosystem, contrarianism is probably the principal reason that would drive anyone to buy another player. This is why the HP deal made some sense. Apple should get another manufacturer to sell iPods under a different brand name, and half these contrarians will probably snap it up, thinking its OK because its “not Apple” and not knowing any better.

    Sorta like 15 years ago when GM made the Chevy Nova in exactly the same factory as the Toyoto Corolla. This was for the people that wanted to “buy Amercian,” not realizing they were getting exactly the same thing, made by exactly the same people in exactly the same plant in California.

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