A recent survey from the Reynolds Journalism Institute found that iPad users were more likely to consume news compared to those without iPads. Not only were iPad users across age groups more likely to go to news organizations for information—they also spent more time reading the news compared to people who do not own iPads. Eighty-four percent of iPad users like to keep up with the news on their devices, compared to 63 percent of all mobile device owners.
These numbers may not be all that surprising, but the study also found that two-thirds of those in the 18 to 34 age group spent 5 hours a week consuming content from news organizations. This rose to 7.3 hours a week for those with an iPad in this age group. Interestingly, media consumers over 55 spent less time consuming news on their devices—probably because two-thirds of them have subscriptions to news in print form. This contrasts with the younger age group, where only a quarter of them have print subscriptions.
These findings point to the ever-increasing importance of tablets, especially iPads, to news organizations. Tablets are supposed to overtake smartphones in web traffic by early next year, and studies have been consistently showing that users respond well to advertising on tablets.
The study also found that after interpersonal communication and entertainment, media consumers aged 18 to 34 spent a lot of their time using social media on their devices—almost six hours per week. But the line between “social media” and “news” is not so distinct. Last week, I covered a panel discussion on social media and how it’s changing the media industry. Moderator David Carr said that most of his content nowadays comes from the “vast human enabled RSS” of social media, and panelist Josh Quittner of Flipboard expressed surprise when the 20-somethings he works with know certain facts from Facebook instead of the front page of The New York Times. They’ve got they’re networks tuned to perfection,” he said, “so that these networks extrude pure useful information to them.”
A good portion of news consumption comes from spending time on social networks, so efforts to distinguish the two activities may be a bit misleading. The study defines “keeping up with the news” as “keeping up with local, national or international news mostly provided by news organizations using Web browsers, smartphone or tablet apps, twitter, RSS feeds,” while social media is simply defined as “participating in social media and networks.” But that kind of participation can easily lead one to content produced by news organizations.
On the same panel, Quittner said that more than half the time we spend consuming information is through an app. With apps and all the time we spend social networking on various devices, it looks like the tablet will become increasingly important for content creators and consumers alike.