If you happened to get your iPhone news from your evening newscast, here's what you were likely to have seen: long lines of people, spot interviews with wannabe purchasers, maybe a brief overview of the product and its specs. If you were lucky, you got an expert on camera. And if you were very lucky, nobody tried to steal your microphone. It should be noted, however, that non-traditional news sources stood out in their iPhone coverage, capturing the story a lot differently.
Real tech support: On the day of the launch, most news organizations were ramping up their coverage for the peaking moment where consumers first got their hands on the product. It captured a lot of the pageantry of the day, but what about News You Could Use? Online, bloggers and geekophiles have been disseminating critical intel for months. SFGate's "TechChronicles" blog broke the news that the iPhone would require a two-year AT&T contract back in January. AppleInsider got the skinny on Apple's iPhone profit margins around the same time.
Close to the day of, the blogosphere continued to provide iPhone fanatics with key information. Gizmodo alerted the web-savvy to Apple's "availability tracker," so that people could get to stores that had the product in stock. ThinkSecret posted interface screengrabs, including one that attested to exchange server functionality. And did any news coverage provide guidance as useful as Consumerist's "6 Ways To Cancel Any Cellphone So You Can Get An iPhone?"
Non-Trad Media: Live, and in their Element: Jeff Jarvis, on BuzzMachine, rounds up the coverage in an impact snapshot of how well the online media covered the story: "The event was covered live, in video, directly to the internet and to the public, by the people in the story, without news organizations." And covered with an extraordinary fervor and completeness. One remarkable example was Justine, from Justin.tv, who hit the Mall of America armed with a camera on her hat and a pursebound Sony VAIO. She was bringing on-the-scene reports via blogging and vlogging, uploading photos to Flickr, and connecting with Twitter users for comments and assistance. That's one person, fully mobile, operating across four platforms in near instantaneous fashion, and connecting to and with the people on the scene in a way the mainstream news cannot.
Plus, Why Not Break a Story While You're There?: When aides to DC Mayor Adrian Fenty showed up at the AT&T store to make a backroom end-run to get a few inventory-depleting bagfuls of iPhone, an alert citizen emailed an account to Wonkette. This resulted in all sorts of bad publicity for Fenty, who's billed himself as the new media mayor and the King of Constituent Services. A chagrinned Fenty was forced to return the iPhones this morning.
If you're looking for a bow to tie this all together, think "event-streaming." That's the term being used by Duncan Riley at TechCrunch, which he says is "missing link in Web 2.0's challenge to network television." And it's a compelling idea: we've seen it in play during the London Underground bombings and, most recently, in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings.
[Note: Above image "strongly suggested" by editor, who is still celebrating Canada Day.]