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Apple's Stock Price Is Still Dropping (So Why Are You Still Interested?)


Don't fret about Apple. People still love the brand -- in fact, they can't stop reading about it.

Whether it's because of product fatigue, a botched Maps application launch, or increased competition from rivals like Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has found it increasingly difficult to please its shareholders.

Since hitting an all-time high of $702.10 in September, Apple shares have slid some 35%. The drop is worse when you consider that the Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) has risen 2.32% while the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) has gained almost 7% in the same time period.

One USA Today columnist has even said that Apple's reign over the tech world "may be over."

"[Apple's] phone market, tablet market, and content-selling business - iTunes - until recently practical monopolies, have become, as if overnight, hugely competitive fields. Management, in this strictly top-down company, is suddenly in dramatic flux. And, with its great map app debacle, Apple's customers are starting to rise up against its famous closed-system policies," said Michael Wolff.

Apple fans, however, will argue that the strength and genius of Apple has always been in creating entirely new product categories, and so the rumored iWatch and Apple TV both hold potential to be growth leaders for the company. (See: In Defense of the Apple iWatch.)

It is also important to note that while shareholders might have lost faith in Apple, the company is still the top dog in terms of revenue. According to a new report from IDC, Apple held a leading 30.7% share of revenue in the smart-connected device space in the fourth quarter, handily beating out its closest rival, Samsung, which had a 20.4% share.

Apple also narrowed the gap with Samsung in terms of product shipments, jumping to 20.3% of unit shipments of smart devices in Q4 2012 from 15.1% in Q3. Samsung's share, meanwhile, dipped to 21.2% from 21.8%.

More importantly, the general public's fascination with the brand is still as strong as ever, indicating that Apple's brand equity remains robust and that it is not quite "over," despite what naysayers report.

Here at Minyanville, for example, articles about Apple consistently snag the greatest number of hits. Just yesterday, a story on the importance of the iPhone 5S was far and away the best-trafficked article of the day. No other story came even remotely close.

The technology press is often criticized for having drunk the Kool-Aid with Apple and for paying a disproportionate amount of attention to the Cupertino, California-based company when others, say, HTC (TPE:2498), are putting out products that are just as good.

However, the truth is that the media is merely responding to what its audience wants. And the audience loves to read about all things Apple.

And it's not just Minyanville where Apple stories always get the best traffic; I checked in with Roy Choi, managing editor of tech news website TechnoBuffalo, and he told me that it's the same situation at his site.

Choi said that on a day when Apple launches a new iDevice, TechnoBuffalo gets ten times the traffic of an average day.

"People still have a fascination with what is coming up for Apple and what it has to say. So any time there's an Apple event, we gear up the troops and get ready [for the traffic]," Choi said.

Reader interest in Apple doesn't mean its products will continue to do well, you might say. That's true, but there's definitely a correlation between the two.

Take Samsung, for instance. Traffic for Samsung articles at Minyanville has grown significantly in the past year, thanks to the increased popularity of its Galaxy smartphones and tablets. (See: Samsung's Galaxy S4 Will Be the World's Fastest Smartphone, but Does That Really Matter?)

Choi told me that TechnoBuffalo has also seen a similar surge in traffic for Samsung stories. A Samsung product launch day, he said, now can draw about five times the average traffic for his site – not quite Apple numbers, but the closest any competitor has come.

Meanwhile, Choi said that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), whose Windows Phones and Surface tablets have received a lukewarm reception thus far, does not generate blockbuster traffic, as you would expect. "There is a growing audience for Microsoft stories, but [the company] doesn't get people interested as an Apple or even an Android story," he said.

Microsoft is making some headway in the smartphone sector though. Choi shared that he's seen the number of users accessing his site through a Windows Phone jump to 10% from 3% in less than a year.

So, while Windows Phone supporters celebrate their sliver of hope, Apple bulls should not lose heart – sales of Apple products will continue to be robust and the company will more than hold its own against Google or Samsung, as long as the public remains keen to read about Apple.

I simply don't foresee the general interest in Apple fading anytime soon -- and I bet the Web traffic for this article will be proof of that.

Also see:

Why Apple's Reputation Depends on the iPhone 5S

Apple's Falling Stock Price, Sports' Real Heroes: The 'Butter Side Up' Theory at Work

Has Apple Fallen Out of Favor in the World of Product Placements?

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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