Pew Study: Mainstream Media Can?t Get Enough of Apple

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Here’s some dog-bites-man news, but with some hard statistics at last to back it up: The news media loves writing and talking about Apple. A study released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) found far more technology stories in the MSM about Apple than even the far-bigger Internet force Google.

Pew also found Apple and other technology vendors have good reason to be pleased with the coverage they get from mainstream news media: “The most prevalent underlying message about technology’s influence has been upbeat—the notion that technology is making life easier and more productive,” Pew said. “Nearly a quarter of all technology stories studied from June 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, conveyed this idea. But that was closely followed by the sense that with that convenience comes risk — to our privacy and particularly to our children — which made up nearly two-in-ten stories, according to the study.”

PEJ studied 437 tech stories on the front pages of 11 newspapers and the leading sections of three cable and three network news channels, 12 websites and 10 radio programs.

Of those tech stories, 15.1% were primarily about Apple, more than Google with 11.4 – and far more than Microsoft, which was featured in just 3% of tech stories. Twice as many MSM tech stories concerned themselves with Twitter than Bill Gates’ giant of Redmond.

PEJ’s study also makes the point that the universe of tech stories in mainstream media is not huge: “It made up less than 1.6% of the total coverage over the course of the year, ranking it 20th out of the 26 identified topics.” Newspaper and other mainstream outlets are paying similar attention to environment, sports and education. PEJ notes that tech news is far behind crime, which accounts for 4.7% of stories, but religion at 0.6% and immigration at 0.9%.

While news outlets are generally positive about the gadget side of technology, the biggest tech story during the year of PEJ’s research was about a tech danger — texting while driving.

“Nearly one-in-ten technology stories were about this subject, more than five times the coverage of either the U.S. plan for broadband access and six times the coverage devoted to the debate over net neutrality,” PEJ said.

The second-biggest storyline? The launch of the newest Apple iPhone models – with stories about the release of the iPad not far behind. 

“The findings suggest that in the mainstream media, particularly on front pages and general interest programs, the press reflects exuberance about gadgets and a wonder about the corporations behind them, but wariness about effects on our lives, our behavior and the sociology of the digital age,” PEJ said.

Beyond the mainstream media, there was even more enthusiasm about tech developments, PEJ found: “While the mainstream press had a split vision of technology, social media reflected a different set of attitudes. An examination of blogs, social media sites and Twitter posts found more excitement about technological advancements and the businesses behind the developments. And the concerns, when there were some, focused on obstacles to technological freedom, such as pending court cases, which might get in the way of progress.”

More about the study is here.

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