It Felt Like My Friends

Today, Apple announced Mountain Lion, their next iteration of OS X.

It was a strange product announcement. I had just arrived at the office and was catching up on Twitter when I started seeing guys like Jim Dalrymple and MG Siegler linking to their previews. There was no press event, the news didn’t originate from traditional outlets, there weren’t even any rumors! As Shawn Blanc said, “I thought it was a joke.”

Instead, single influential writers like John Gruber got private one-on-one events with Phil Schiller.

“We’re starting to do some things differently,” Phil Schiller told Gruber.

Different is right. Apple’s launch focused on finding influential niches to get the news out. They didn’t want a press release and 500 of the exact same syndicated article – as a matter of fact, of the five or so articles that I’ve read, not a single one had official statements from Apple.

The result? It felt like my friends were telling me about something cool they got to check out last week.

Apple found writers who could craft their own story, tell something unique and interesting. Quality over quantity.

Companies should pay attention. Instead of trying to copy Apple’s old approach by hosting some pretend “big event,” bombing the media with press releases, and trying to turn into front page news in every outlet, simply focus on finding the influential people in your community. You may not be the biggest, but if you can find the 10 or so people who care to get your story out to an engaged audience, you win. You can choose be page 3 in the New York Times or you can be front page in your niche.

The non-obvious implication of this is that you make your users feel cared about. Geeks read Gruber because he feels like one of us, not a talking head behind a giant publication. Apple taking the time to care about him makes the biggest company in the world feel like a friend of a friend.

This is how we consume our news today, disintermediated. Major news outlets should be scared. The world is changing.

February 16, 2012