October 25, 2011

The Tablet Revolution

Who Tablet Users Are

Demographics and News Habits   

Tablet users tend to be more highly educated and have a higher household income than U.S. adults overall. In addition, more tablet users are in their 30s and 40s than the public overall, and they are more likely to be employed full time.

About half, 51%, of tablet users have graduated from college, compared with 28% of all U.S. adults; 62% are fully employed compared with 44% of the population overall (and just 26% are not employed, including those who have never worked, are retired or are currently out of work versus 41% overall). They are nearly twice as likely as U.S. adults overall to have a household income of at least $75,000 per year (53% versus 28%). It will be worth watching the whether the new, lower cost tablets like Amazon’s Kindle Fire draw more middle-income buyers into the tablet realm.

When it comes to age the tablet, unlike most new technologies, is not simply a device for the young. The proportion of the youngest cohort- 18-29 year olds-is on par with the population overall, 22%. Instead, the largest share of tablet users, 46%, are in their 30s and 40s, compared with 35% of the population overall. As is the case with other digital technologies, older people tend to lag behind in terms of adoption (only 7% of tablet users are 65 and older, compared with 17% of the general public).

Even more than demographics, though, the news consumption habits of tablet users stand out strikingly from the U.S. population overall.

The Early Tablet Users are Dedicated News Consumers

Tablet users are more likely than the general public to follow the news frequently. They also turn to the internet as a main source for news more than the public overall, and are far more likely to get a better understanding of major news events by reading or hearing about them rather than seeing pictures or watching video.

More than two thirds (68%) of tablet users describe themselves as people who follow news "all or most of the time," versus more occasional news consumers (18% follow news "just some of the time," and 9% follow it "now and then"). This outpaces U.S. adults overall, among whom 56% follow news all the time, and a quarter just some of the time, according to a separate Pew Research survey from 2010.

These users also prefer reading or listening over watching. A full 71% of those who use tablets say that generally they prefer reading or hearing facts about what happened, rather than seeing pictures or video (26% prefer pictures and video). The general population, on the other hand, is nearly evenly split in their preference for words versus pictures or video. When asked in a Pew Research Survey in 2008, 48% of the general public preferred pictures versus 45% who liked reading or hearing the news most (7% said they did not know).  

Tablet users are more likely than Americans overall to get news electronically. Nearly two-thirds of tablet users, 63%, turn to the internet for most of their news about national and international issues. That is a full 20 percentage points more than the population overall (43%), according to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press.[1] But the tablet population is not anti-print. Close to half of these tablet users subscribe to a print newspaper or magazine.


[1] "Press Widely Criticized, but Trusted More than other Information Sources," Pew Research Center, Sept 22, 2011,       http://www.people-press.org/2011/09/22/press-widely-criticized-but-trusted-more-than-other-institutions/.