A tale of hubris, old media, and Steve Jobs

TIME-Steve-Jobs-420x560What we have here is the beginning of a sort of cautionary tale on the sins of arrogance and what fate may befall those who forget to be humble. Think of it as a journalistic expose of the old school, written by a real sob sister. Many people have said for a long time that the Achilles Heel of Steve Jobs, and therefore of Apple (since at this point, Jobs is Apple and Apple is Jobs. When and if he ever dies, I expect Cupertino will sink into the sea without his unreality field to sustain it), is just that…arrogance. The man seems at times to walk as if he has contempt for the carpet. For some reason that flaw especially comes into play when he is dealing with the media or with leaders of other industries, such as magazine and newspaper publishers.

When Jobs met with those leaders before the release of the iPad, many sources made clear he came with an emotional and effective pitch, but felt that Apple and the iPad were the last hope for magazines and newspapers to remain profitable in the modern age. On top of that, between the iPad’s place as the first tablet device of that nature and Apple’s well earned fame and respect in the worlds of both tech and consumer products, he clearly viewed his offer to these media titans to be the only game in town and behaved as such. He was making them an offer they couldn’t refuse and even through they agreed, they remembered his attitude.

That attitude may be coming back to haunt him now.

From the beginning, major publishers like Conde Nast and News Corp have not been terribly happy with the way Jobs and Apple have been treating them. The words “control freak” have come up a number of times. Jobs has been publically dissing their apps including both the highly successful Wall Street Journal app and the NYT’s Editors Choice app while blocking their efforts to set up business models they are comfortable with, such as subscriptions that bypass the App Store (could have told them that, no matter what he said during those closed door pitches). Jobs seems very much to have embraced the attitude that the publishers and their products represent “old media” and he seems to be just sustaining them long enough for the public to transition completely to “new media,” aka Apple products, for all their news and information.

Clearly despite all his initial promises of salvation, Jobs really doesn’t have much respect for his media partners, and they have noticed it. It seems Jobs had begun to sour on the iPad as a platform for other people’s content, and making the publishers happy or even adequately satisfied has not been high on his list. Remember back during his Antennagate press conference, he blamed most of it on the media being out to get him and made pretty clear what he thought of them. Is it any wonder they are now feeling less than loved in Cupertino?

Therefore is it also any wonder that they have decided that they really do love this whole “going digital” thing…but may not need Mr. Jobs and his high handed tantrums to pull off the transition after all.

Most of the major newspapers represented on the iPad/iPhone, such as the NYT, WSJ, and USA Today are now actively negotiating for a place amongst the content channels offered on the Samsung Tab, and I am pretty sure they are going to get them. After all, Samsung has been bending over backwards to woo and accommodate them. Rather than making periodicals feel like third class citizens far behind ebooks and news aggregators in terms of importance the way Apple has, Samsung is basing the Tab’s reading hub on Zinio for magazines, Kobo for e-books, and PressDisplay for newspapers. All three mediums are given equal billing under reading. Once they have active apps or feeds running for the Samsung Tab it is just a hop, skip, and a jump to other Android tablets when they are released and a vast number of Android-based smartphones already out in the field. In fact, since more phones in the US run Android then they do iOS, Apple is looking more and more unnecessary in this equation.

Newspapers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal know that no medium is worth much without content, and they have both the content and the respected brand names in the industry. They can take that content to one provider…or all providers. Apple would have done better to realize that even closed deals can be broken open if one side feels lied to and used.

Hubris. Have a bowl while you read the morning paper, Steve, and don't forget some Crow on the side.

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Zealot Benmergui

Zealot is a former contributing editor at Pocketables.