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Tim Cook blasphemed Monday night in San Francisco, at least from the perspective of his Silicon Valley brethren.
“We felt that the top stories should be selected by humans,” Cook said, discussing a new, curated section of Apple News devoted to the U.S. midterm elections in November. His reasoning: “To make sure that you’re not picking content simply to enrage people.”
The last thing Silicon Valley’s news aggregators want is human selection, you see. Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) thrive by algorithm. Popularity counts most, even if the beauty contest is gamed by state-sponsored trolls and other criminals. And more is always better than better because there’s money to be made here.
Again, Cook took issue with his neighboring Goliaths. “I’m not being critical of people who do something different,” Cook allowed, a sure sign he was about to be critical of two companies that profit mightily from re-purposing the news that others write while collecting data from readers, “but Apple has always stood for curation. We’ve always believed in quality, not quantity.”
Cook’s comments were self-serving—Apple (AAPL) sells gadgets and services that run on them, not ads or data sets—but that didn’t make them any less refreshing. Quality may not always be a better business model, but it’s infinitely more satisfying. Never perfect, Apple nevertheless has the high ground on this issue. Cook said Apple News will employ its own writers to supplement what it gets from other sources. He also said the company will turn to topics other than the midterm elections.
Cook was the opening speaker at the annual meeting of Fortune’s CEO Initiative, a community dedicated to exploring how business can improve the world through its profit-making activities. The Apple CEO, about to hit the seven-year-mark in the job, has been outspoken on issues like immigration, equality, privacy, human rights, and the environment. He carefully draws the distinction between commenting on policy (good) and politics (bad).
A beta tester or Apple’s announced-but-unreleased “Screen Time” feature to help users monitor their over-reliance on smartphones, Cook said he’s cut down on his use of notifications and also has begun picking up his phone less.
Because more isn’t always better. And quality tends to win out in the end.