Feb 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Apple makes its debate debut

Illustration of a microphone with the Apple logo on it
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple will co-host its first-ever political debate Friday in an effort to show off its growing investment in news.

Why it matters: Apple's role in tonight's Democratic debate in New Hampshire comes as two of the biggest tech giants, Facebook and Google, are noticeably absent from the debates this season.

  • The debate will feature deep integrations with Apple's news product, which bills itself as a more curated, editorially-focused news experience than that which exists on other big tech platforms.

Details: The tech giant is co-hosting the debate alongside ABC and New Hampshire's WMUR-TV.

  • Unlike those outlets, Apple will not have a moderator featured in the debate to question candidates, and it will not be providing any editorial guidance or questions to the moderators.
  • Instead, it will solicit questions from users through its news app. The company began collecting questions earlier this week.
  • Apple has also built several special features to highlight coverage of the presidential election, including real-time election results data from the Associated Press, policy resource guides for readers, a guide to each presidential candidate, and a news literacy guide to help readers identify misinformation online.
  • Apple will provide state and national polling data, infographics and analysis through a partnership with ABC-owned political blog FiveThirtyEight. ABC News' coverage of the debate will be livestreamed on Apple News and will also be available to be live-streamed directly on the Apple TV app.

The big picture: As we've reported, tech companies have increasingly been participating as co-hosts or sponsors of political debates. Both the RNC and the DNC decided to cut back on the number of debates beginning in 2016.

Data: Axios research; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: Axios research; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Flashback: YouTube and Facebook first partnered with TV networks for debates during the 2008 presidential cycle. MySpace partnered with the Commission on Presidential Debates in 2008 on a series of interactive features for the debates that allowed users to review candidates online while watching the debates.

Be smart: Tech partnerships can sometimes help bring voters closer to the debate, by giving them a chance to ask questions or register reactions in real-time.

What's next: The next debate that will feature a tech company as a co-host will be on Feb. 25, when CBS News co-hosts the 10th Democratic debate with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and in partnership with Twitter in Charleston, South Carolina.

Go deeper: Tech's on-again, off-again role in campaign debates

Go deeper