Quick Observations About the iPhone X Presentation

Wearing blue jeans with your shirttail out does not hide your Dad bod.


Apple lovers (I confess) love product announcements. Tech writers love dissecting the features of new Apple products but never quite criticize them for fear that they will fall out of Apple’s graces. (Consumers only care what you can do with a product, not what chip it has.) Yesterday (September 12, 2017), another product announcement was made by Apple. Here are my thoughts about the announcement that only the ten people reading this care to know.


  1. If I were the number “9” I’d feel cheated.
  2. I liked the way Tim Cook, an Auburn alumni, used a photo featuring an Auburn football player when introducing the new Apple TV. (Auburn football and Apple TVs are both hobbies of Cook.)
  3. I also liked the way Tim Cook, a native of Alabama, still talks with an Alabama accent unlike other Alabama natives who don’t. Like me, for instance.
  4. The presentation was the first consumer-facing event (vs. a developer event) that flooded the zone with tech-features. That was all back-story narrative related to Samsung. Typically, only tech reporters love comparing one bezel to another bezel. Consumers live in a completely different world where no one knows what the hell a bezel is.
  5. Don’t buy a $1,000 iPhone unless you know why you are spending that much. If you are buying it to impress people, that makes sense: it’s a lot cheaper than buying a $50,000 car.
  6. Wearing blue jeans with your shirttail out does not hide your Dad bod.

The Best Thing About Blogging

There are many great things about having a personal blog and consistently posting to it. And none of the great things are about trying to be a “thought leader” or personal brand. After blogging (more-or-less consistently) for 17 years, I’ve discovered that much of what I write is like jotting down a note to the future me.

RexBlog on Jan. 9, 2007

Like today. Ten years ago today, I was in San Francisco. I was on about the 20th row when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Because I blog, I can go back and read what I said that day and said a few days afterward.

In the past decade, I’ve blogged tens of thousands of words about Apple products.

But there’s something great about reading what you first thought about something that later turned out to be more (or less) significant.

It makes you feel like you were clueless…or insightful. But that you had any opinion at all makes you feel connected to an event in some way.

The headline of the post where I wrote my response is, “The least impressive thing about the iPhone is that it’s a phone.”

Ten years later, I think I nailed it.

What else happened on this day, ten years ago.

Looking at other posts of the day, I see that MyBlogLog.com was going to be purchased by Yahoo. Later, that would be as disastrous as most Yahoo acquisitions were.

AppleTV was released.

While I didn’t blog about it, ten years ago today was the first time I ever used Twitter. I had set up an account a few months earlier (in the year 2006), but MacWorld was the first time I used it. Why? The media center (I had press credentials thanks to a friend in high places), encouraged reporters to follow their posts to Twitter (“tweets” didn’t exist yet) to learn about changes in the MacWorld schedule or other updates. This was back when it was far easier to understand what Twitter was (a group text messaging thingee) than it is today. (However, for months, I continued to think it was a method for PR people to distribute text messages.)

Why People Block Ads

People don’t hate good advertising that helps them discover new things, become better at things, provides them with insight and awareness, fuels their passion. What they hate is intrusive, repetitive, uninteresting, stupid and irrelevant advertising.

The promise since day one of the internet has been that big data was going to turn online advertising into something that is tailored to each one of us personally. The deal was going to be: Let us put software on your computer that lets us know what you like and where you are and what you are doing, and we’ll serve up ads that are relevant.

Of course, 15 years ago the term for “big data” may have been “personalization” or collaborative filtering or some other mumbo jumbo, but the idea has always been the same.

So our browsers today are now all weighted down with tracking crap (that’s not the technical term, I’m guessing) and the way most users experience big data is through some creepy “re-targeting” approach that makes a product we searched for because of something we can’t remember now is following us around the web for weeks.

And so we do whatever we can to just make it all go away and let us see the content we want to see.

And so in the way we used to plan going to the restroom around TV commercial breaks, we block ads online.

But it didn’t start last week with Apple’s new iOS.

Five years ago, the 12 people who read this blog were able to learn that Apple’s Safari browser included a one-click ad-blocking feature that’s been baked into the browser ever since. Look at this cool GIF I made and see the feature you could have been using for past five years to see what a web page looks like without all that stuff that gets in the way of making it easy to read.

safari-reader

For as long as I can recall, ad-blockers have been most the popular web browser extensions (the add-ons and plug-ins that let you customize the way a browser works). Rather than learn from that the lesson that people don’t want to read copy that is cluttered up and covered up, legacy media companies want to see the problem in terms of how readers are free-loaders and that blocking ads is what’s wrong with the world.

Here’s the problem, however: most advertising on the web sucks.

Some advertising works great, however: Search advertising, for example.

But the intrusive banner and display ads that people block, face it: they are awful and they deserve to be blocked.

So why is this old news, new again?

(Before answering this question, let me point back to a 2009 Rexblog post in which I ask media companies to stop blaming me for their failure. I inserted the link here for no specific reason, but that’s how it works on the web.)

If you’ve missed the current ad-blocking controversy, here are links to Vox.com’s explainer and Danny Sullivan’s insight at Marketing Land. Simply put, Apple, in its new version of the operating system for iPad and iPhone, is allowing developers to create ad block apps that work like ad-blocking browser extensions have worked since the first pop-up ad appeared on prehistoric cave-drawings in France 100,000 years ago.

The current season’s ad-block controversy went viral when Marco Arment (a superstar developer who is best known for his roles in developing Tumblr and Instapaper, created an ad-blocker iOS app ironically called “Peace.” It instantly became the #1 iOS paid app. But it became major “news” when Marco removed it from the App Store for reasons he explains here. (Sidenote: This makes Marco one of the only people I know who has actually followed Jon Lennon’s suggestion to “give peace a chance.” It didn’t work for Marco, is all we are saying.)

Why do people want to block advertising?

Here’s something I discovered when looking into this controversy. As Macro created Peace using data he licensed from the browse-extension ad-block company Ghostery, I decided to download it and try it out. You’ll discover two things when using it: (1) “Big data” tracks a lot of stuff you didn’t know existed (see the list of tracking software on the screengrab below); and (2) When Ghostery turns off all that data tracking, your browser runs a lot faster.

Screen_Shot_2015-09-19_at_7_42_44_PM

It seems strange to me that marketers spend so much money on data that’s used to decide how to target customers with advertising so bad that customers want to block them.

But that’s why people block them. Not because they are bad people, but because the ads suck.

Where does this end?

This weekend’s controversy is a continuation of a far too long-lasting debate over the economics of media. 

I have lots of opinions of what’s wrong with the way companies now advertise and communicate with customers and what marketers should do while waiting for tradition media companies and agency media buyers keep being frustrated over the fact that fewer people click on their ads.

Most of my recent writing on the topic can be found in the bi-monthly newsletter form Hammock Inc., called Idea Email (archive and subscription).

How Apple Advertises New Products: The Prestige

Now that the Apple Watch is on the wrists of the first wave of purchasers, Apple has dropped all the technical mumbo-jumbo and has switched its millions in advertising into full-on prestige mode.

Last September 4, I wrote a Hammock Idea Email called, “Learn the Secret to Apple’s Product Launch Magic.”

It referred to the movie, The Prestige, and broke down how Apple would be introducing what we now know is the Apple Watch into the three parts of a magic trick, as described by the film’s character played by Michael Caine: (1) The Pledge, (2) The Turn and (3) The Prestige.

Read more “How Apple Advertises New Products: The Prestige”

Modern Family’s ‘Connection Lost’ Episode as Allegory

The episode is an allegory (or parable, if you prefer). The truth it reveals is a good old fashion cautionary moral: Don’t let facts get in the way of truth.

No doubt, there are hundreds of posts this morning in which bloggers are trying to explain the top 10 this or that’s about the episode of Modern Family that aired last night (“Connection Lost,” Season 6, Episode 16).

For that reason, I haven’t read any blog posts regarding the show. If this sounds like I’m borrowing the observation of others, I’m actually not (this time, at least).

I did read one review and it was insightful (unlike this post, perhaps). It’s written by Gwen Ihnat at AV Club. She calls the episode, “A gimmicky but successful storytelling experiment.”

What you’re about to read is my observation of the show as an allegory (or parable, if you prefer).

SPOILER ALERT: I include some spoilers in this post, but I could tell you everything that happens and it wouldn’t matter.

Here are several things I won’t be writing about in this post

Read more “Modern Family’s ‘Connection Lost’ Episode as Allegory”