Apple reclaimed the top spot in a brand listing by collecting an estimated $900 million worth of traditional media, social media and Twitter coverage in the fourth quarter of 2011, a measurement company said today.
New York-based General Sentiment, which tracks the online coverage of 100 companies each quarter, said that Apple's return to the No. 1 spot was fueled by media reports and individuals' comments about the iPhone 4S and the death of former CEO Steve Jobs -- events that took place in the final three months of 2011.
Apple unseated Google as the brand that amassed the most coverage; Google had held the first position for the two quarters prior.
"Apple had the best numbers since the first quarter of 2011, when it released the iPad 2, Verizon began selling the iPhone and Jobs took a third leave of absence," said Greg Artzt, co-founder and chief strategy officer of General Sentiment.
Apple's $900 million worth of coverage was split almost evenly between news media, which accounted for $301 million, or 33% of the total; social media (34%) and Twitter (32%) sources.
Google's $772.3 million worth of coverage wasn't far behind, but it relied more on social media (45%) than either of the other two sources.
"Apple is almost always on center stage," said Artzt, "but it and Google have been trading places for some time."
While some coverage of Jobs' death was included in General Sentiment's totals -- essentially only if Apple was mentioned in the stories and comments -- if all the discussion about his passing, particularly the many accolades and condolences had been factored in, Apple would have garnered an even larger media value, said Artzt.
Two weeks after Jobs' Oct. 5, 2011, death, Apple said that it had received more than a million emails of customers' thoughts, memories and condolences. The company published a selection of those messages on a special tribute website it had created.
Artzt also cited the launch of the iPhone 4S for generating considerable noise about Apple last quarter.
Although pre-sale buzz about the iPhone 4S was largely negative -- some had expected more from Apple in the annual refresh of its smartphone -- sales have been extremely strong: Earlier this week Apple said it had sold a record 37 million iPhones , most of the new iPhone 4S, in the fourth quarter.
Microsoft placed third in the fourth-quarter ranking, with a total of $366.6 million in coverage. The majority of it (57%) came from social media.
While Microsoft placed third in all four quarters, its media coverage total has been steadily dropping all year, falling from a high of $690 million in the second quarter. Hewlett-Packard, the fourth firm in General Sentiment's recent ranking, has been gaining ground, said Artzt, and may pass the Redmond, Wash. developer this year.
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