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Apple, other pet topics dominate media tech coverage

Doug Gross
Apple CEO Steve Jobs talks to reporters after a press conference earlier this month.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs talks to reporters after a press conference earlier this month.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Apple gets covered more than other technology companies, a new Pew report says
  • Last year, texting while driving was the most popular tech story; the iPhone was second
  • Report says other important tech stories get neglected in favor of a few topics
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(CNN) -- The mainstream media's technology coverage hyper-focuses on Apple and other favorite topics at the expense of other important stories, a new study says.

A yearlong survey by the Pew Research Center showed Apple getting a bigger share of coverage than Google and social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

And after a handful of high-profile companies, the amount of coverage others got dropped by a massive margin, according to the report.

Between June 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, the Apple iPhone, buoyed by the release of the iPhone 4 and the praise and complaints it received, was the No. 2 technology story. The release of the iPad was fourth.

Stories about the risks of texting while driving topped the list, accounting for 8.5 percent of all tech stories.

The highest-ranking brand-specific story that wasn't about Apple -- reports of a search agreement between Microsoft and Yahoo -- was in ninth place, drawing 1.8 percent of the coverage. In comparison, the iPhone got 6.4 percent of stories and the iPad garnered 4.6 percent.

In a look specifically at coverage of tech companies, Apple was the subject of just over 15 percent of the stories. The No. 2 finisher was Google, with about 11 percent.

"The 34-year-old company [Apple] attracted more coverage from the mainstream press than any other technology company -- and the bulk of it was positive," reads the report from the Pew center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Its popular devices and orchestrated PR strategy helped it even outpace Google."

Interestingly, Twitter was third, with about 7 percent of the stories, more than Facebook's 4.8 percent -- despite the fact that Facebook's estimated 500 million users dwarfs the number of people on Twitter.

Pew said stories about Twitter's role in protests of Iran's disputed election last June bolstered those numbers.

After Facebook, Microsoft was the subject of about 3 percent of tech stories, according to the report. After that, there was a huge dip.

Citibank clocked in with a microscopic 0.13 percent, followed by AT&T, Comcast and Research in Motion, all at 0.09 percent.

The RIM number is particularly interesting considering the fact that the company's BlackBerry remains the most popular smartphone in the United States and is growing in international usage.

The report also found that technology isn't a big part of mainstream media coverage. It ranked 20th out of 26 topics, with 1.6 percent of the stories, ahead of religion and immigration but behind crime, sports and education.

The media, according to the study, have "double vision" when it comes to technology news -- celebrating innovations while, at the same time, remaining wary of the impact that changes in consumer habits will have on society.

"[P]articularly on front pages and general interest programs, the press reflects exuberance about gadgets and a wonder about the corporations behind them, but wariness about effects on our lives, our behavior and the sociology of the digital age," the report reads.

Pew's report suggested that Apple isn't the only aspect of tech coverage that might be getting a disproportionate share of mainstream media attention. It cited the No. 1 topic as an example.

"While the dangers of texting while driving are clear, the topic received far more attention than a number of other significant tech subjects that also impact millions of Americans," the report reads.

"For example, texting while driving received more than five times the amount of attention as legislative stories such as the National Broadband Plan for the United States and more than six times the number of stories as the controversy over net neutrality, a legal decision that could have a large impact on the future of the internet."

The survey included a broad cross-section of newspapers, network news, cable news (including CNN), radio and online news sites (including CNN.com).

[TECH: NEWSPULSE]

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