Apple events used to be targeted toward tech writers and gadget reviewers who would publish the all-important “yes” or “no” decision as to whether or not a new Apple product was worthy of purchase. Walt Mossberg, the dean of gadget reviewers, symbolized this era. Things are dramatically different today. No single reviewer or publication holds enough influence to make or break a new Apple product.
The Apple keynote presentation itself has changed dramatically as well. Fifteen years ago, Apple keynotes consisted primarily of Steve Jobs going through slide after slide with a few demoes here and there. In January 2007, during the iPhone unveiling, Steve Jobs was on stage by himself for 88% of the 103-minute presentation. Much of his focus was spent on making the case for why a certain new Apple product should exist. Apple had a user base that was a fraction of its current size. Steve ended up selling more than just the product announced on stage. Steve was selling Apple.
In contrast, last week’s Apple keynote had nine different presenters, Apple employees who worked on the product being unveiled. Tim Cook, in what has become his usual role of a master of ceremonies, was on stage for approximately 14% of the time.
A few years ago, the Apple keynote was thought to be on its last legs. Thanks to the rise of social media, Apple events were expected to have trouble remaining relevant in the news cycle for longer than a few hours. In addition, it wasn’t entirely clear how Apple would handle critical product unveilings, demos, and “one more things” that had been handled by Steve.
As it turned out, the Apple keynote went on to not just maintain its influence, but to actually gain value in today’s media landscape.
Apple bet big on video.
Apple keynotes now include a heavy reliance on video for handling many segments of the traditional presentation. Everything from showing off products for the first time to going over the product’s sales pitch is handled by video. It helps that these videos are very well done.
While Apple’s initial move to video was viewed as a way to handle the presentation role that had been given to Steve, the increased usage of videos began to serve other purposes. Videos shown during Apple events now go on to be watched and passed around on social media. In 2007, the iPhone unveiling consisted of six short videos, most of which were just clips of TV shows and movies, representing 2% of stage time. At last week’s Apple event at Steve Jobs Theater, 11 videos were shown, representing nearly 22% of stage time. Three of those videos, some of which went on to be included in ad campaigns, have a collective 55M views on YouTube.
Apple extended this bet on video to include 120-second comical recaps of its keynotes. The videos have been receiving rave reviews after each event. Such recap videos were unimaginable just a few years ago as they would have been looked at as Apple essentially telling people not to bother watching the full presentation. As it turned out, the recap videos have become a great way for Apple to bring the keynotes to life. Recap videos receive four to five times the number of views as the full keynotes. Relatively speaking, few people go back to rewatch a 100-minute Apple keynote. However, people do go back and watch a two-minute recap video of that 100-minute Apple keynote.