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Survey reveals profile of iPad users

Thursday, December 9, 2010 | 5:58 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA – News consumers continue to move toward digital platforms – this time, on the iPad.

Roger Fidler, a program director at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, said publishers can see that the iPad and similar devices will be "an important new medium for newspapers and magazines" with several advantages compared to the Web.

“It allows for more visually rich and media-rich editorial and advertising presentations, more like print than the Web,” Fidler said.

Fidler headed a research project conducted by RJI this fall about how iPad users consume news.

He said he was surprised to find that a high percentage of those surveyed indicated that they were very likely or somewhat likely to switch from print subscriptions to digital subscriptions on their iPad within six months.

The RJI survey listed six main findings:

  • iPad users are predominantly well-educated, affluent men between 35 and 64 who purchased the device within the first two months of its release.
  • The overall satisfaction and time spent with the iPad are very high.
  • Keeping up with news and current events is the most popular use.
  • iPad news consumers prefer newspaper applications to newspaper websites and are less likely to use print publications.
  • Positive iPad reading experience is influenced by age and traditional media habits.
  • Low prices and ease of use are key factors in users’ decisions to purchase newspaper subscriptions on the iPad.

The 20-question survey had 1,609 respondents and was conducted online between September and November. Responses represented all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, as well as 49 other countries. About 92 percent were located in the United States.

The survey was conducted at the request of, as well as funded by, the RJI Digital Publishing Alliance members.

The full results of the 2010 National iPad News Survey will be presented at 2:15 p.m. Friday in Fred W. Smith Forum in the Reynolds Journalism Institute at MU as a part of the Tablet/E-Reader Symposium.

Colleen Newvine, market research director at the Associated Press, is scheduled to speak at the event about a similar survey conducted by the AP in July and August.

About 2,000 iPad users participated in the AP survey via links on AP, BBC and NPR iPad applications.

The AP survey found that iPad users predominantly consumed news at home, Newvine said. Participants also cited that they preferred reading long-form text stories on the iPad, she said.

“It’s not just something you’re using on the go,” she said.

The RJI survey found similar results. Almost half of the respondents rated their reading experience as much better on the iPad than on iPhones or other smart phones.

Fidler said the RJI survey results should help publishers in planning their “digital strategies for 2010 and beyond,” as well as influence decisions about iPad subscription prices and advertising rates.

“Publishers are hopeful that the iPad will make branded, curated packages of digital content popular enough with readers that they will be willing to pay for subscriptions,” Fidler said.

About 99 percent of those surveyed indicated they consumed news on their iPad for some period of time during a typical day, according to the RJI survey results.

RJI plans to conduct a follow-up panel survey in March, June and September.

“The panel surveys in 2011 will give us more insights in to how iPad users are consuming news and how their usage of news apps changes over time, especially after newspapers begin charging for iPad subscriptions,” Fidler said.

Newvine said a question still remains about whether the iPad and similar devices are being used to supplement or replace a news consumption experience.

RJI researchers plan to study how users’ satisfaction and usage changes over time. They plan on conducting another cross-sectional iPad news survey next September that will be compared to the 2010 survey results.


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