Study: Tablet users are rich, educated, news-loving

 About half of tablet computer owners get news on their device every day, according to a new study.

Story highlights

  • A new Pew study explores how people use tablets to get news
  • Tablet users tend to be wealthier and better educated
  • About half (53%) of respondents get news on their tablet every day
Owners of iPads and other tablet devices tend to be news junkies who are wealthier and more highly educated than than the general population, according to a new report.
The Pew Project on Excellence in Journalism took an in-depth look at how people use tablets to get news. When the study was conducted in July, Apple's iPad made up the vast majority of tablet computers in use in the U.S., although Pew researchers also looked at people who used similar devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Motorola Xoom and even the Nook Color.
The project noted several differences between tablet users and the general U.S. population. First, tablet users tend to be more highly educated: Fifty-one percent have a college degree, compared with 28% of all Americans.
Tablet users also tend to be richer: Fifth-three percent have an annual household income greater than $75,000, compared with 28% of the total U.S. population. (Conversely, 15% of tablet users have an annual household income of less than $30,000, while over a third of American households earn that much or less each year.)
Most tablet users have jobs: Sixty-two percent are employed full time, compared with 41% of the total population.
Along other demographic lines, tablets mostly mirror the general population in terms of gender, race and political ideology. But age indicates some differences: Nearly half (46%) of tablet users are age 30-49, while just 35% of Americans are in that age bracket. Also, only 7% of tablet owners are age 65 or older, while 17% of Americans are seniors. This part of the population is growing fast as baby boomers age.
Tablet users do seem to be hungry for news. The project notes: "About half (53%) get news on their tablet every day, and they read long articles as well as get headlines."
Many news organizations are building and promoting their own apps specifically designed for tablets. The project found that about two-thirds of tablet users have a news app installed on their tablets, but that's not where they get most of their news, even on the tablet.
"The browser, carried over from the desktop experience, is still the more popular means of consuming news," said the report. "A plurality of tablet news users (40%) say they get their news mainly through a Web browser. Another 31% use news apps and the browser equally, while fewer, 21%, get their news primarily through apps."
Of course, the tablet market is shifting fast. Right now, many smaller, cheaper tablets (mostly marketed as e-readers, even though they really are tablets) are hitting the U.S. market just in time for the holiday buying season.
Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Pew Project on Excellence in Journalism, says the study did take users of the Nook Color and similar modified tablets into account. It found that respondents used those devices to do much more than read books.
"I certainly think that as newer tablet devices like the Kindle Fire come into the marketplace at a lower cost, that it opens the possibility of bringing in different kinds of people to the tablet population, especially people who are younger or not in the upper income bracket," she said.
The project also plans to do followup research on how tablet devices are shaping how Americans get news.
"I think whether it's called a tablet or some other name over the next couple of years, what matters is the kind of difference these devices make to the user experience," Mitchell said. "People are using tablets to do different things with news than they did before."