Marinaccio: I know this is very broad, but can you talk about some ways in which the Macintosh intro might have contributed to long-term changes in high-tech journalism?
Richards: I would say that the whole Mac thing, especially the 1984 ad, definitely had an impact on high-tech marketing: more companies used sneaks, tried to create a more consumer-oriented focus to their marketing, and favored some publications over others. Apple used to always favor Fortune and Newsweek when they wanted to give exclusives.
Marinaccio: [feigned shock] Not the Mercury News?
Richards: Well, among magazines-- They were really more attuned to magazines much more than other tech companies, because magazines can reach a mass market. I don't think any tech company, except for IBM, with the IBM personal computer in 1981, matched them. Steve Jobs got on the cover of Time right around then.
So it seemed to me they really perfected working with publications. I assume-- although I really have no idea-- that they had a larger PR staff; they also had Regis McKenna as an outside agency. So it was a very professional PR operation overall, in terms of keeping in touch with a lot of media, getting in touch with magazines, traveling back East to introduce their executives, and meeting with the top people at the publications.
Marinaccio: How did Apple present that technical information?
Richards: They did a really layered approach. The press kit was all really well-packaged. There was the press release for the non-techie people, that just talked about how wonderful Macintosh was and how it was going to change the world. Then there were techier press releases, where they talked about the RAM, or the keyboard, or other things.
As I recall, they were were one of the first companies to heavily market the relationship with applications developers. They had applications developers on board early, so they could say at the time of the launch that they had all these companies lined up to create spreadsheets, and games, and other things. Plus, they came out with their own software for the Mac at the same time.
So the way they handled the press kit was all dissected like that. Here's all the developer stuff, if you want to know about that; here's the techie stuff, here's the general press release. It was really easily digestible, and easy to use by the press. Lots of great photos, professionally done. Now all that is standard.
I went to the IBM PC Jr introduction in 1983, and that was also well-packaged, with a very complete press kit, and very professionally done. IBM at the time was-- well, there was no other company like IBM. So to have a small upstart company match that was remarkable. And now that's expected of smaller companies as well.
Marinaccio: So things have changed in high-tech journalism since 1984. Did the changes come quickly?
Richards: Yeah, in some sense that campaign was a watershed, and after that everybody else had to match the hype. Of course Apple kept doing that, with every new product introduction. They persisted, and I think they raised the standards, and the expectations. Everything is that way now. It's very manipulative.
Marinaccio: You have a Mac?
Richards: Yes-- I thought it was very neat, so I went out and bought one. They were absolutely right-on in saying it was easiest computer to use. Their marketing was accurate in a lot of ways.