As the latest device with the promise of gaining mainstream adoption, tablets have prompted a torrent of research on how people are using them and who's buying them. The latest, from the Online Publishers Association and research firm Frank N. Magid Associates, only serves to confirm the tablet as a media-centric platform.
According to the OPA study, virtually all (93%) of tablet owners use downloaded apps, about two-thirds check email and browse the Web, 58% play games and listen to music, half watch video and use it for social networking, 42% for reading books, and 31% to make purchases. By comparison, media interaction on smartphones is still taking place at lower rates.
When it comes to more specific types of content, about half get weather information, 41% local news, about one-third get sports, newspaper or magazine content, and one-quarter get financial information.
People also indicated a preference for doing various activities on a tablet versus a PC by a wide margin, including watching video and Web browsing. Most would rather read on a tablet than a dedicated e-reader like the Kindle.
But with potential advantages over PC and smartphones, one of the big questions has been how to monetize media on tablets. In that vein, the OPA study found that nearly half of tablet users would rather pay for apps with limited or no advertising. Eight in 10 app users have paid for apps (mostly games), spending an average of $53 in the last year. But paid apps account for only 26% of tablet apps downloaded overall.
The findings suggest people want different purchase options for paid content. Asked how they would like to buy newspaper, magazine or TV content, the majority selected one of the following choices in roughly equal proportions: bundled with an offline subscription, stand-alone subscription or one-time online purchase. Roughly a third of users said they weren't interested in buying one of the three types of content.
The study also indicated potential for an ad-supported approach on tablets. Almost half (46%) of those surveyed described tablet advertising in newspaper and/or magazine apps as both relevant and "unique and interesting."
Nearly four in 10 (38%) characterized it as "eye-catching" or "hard to ignore," while 36% equated it with Internet advertising; 28% found it annoying. The novelty factor is likely playing a part in boosting receptivity to tablet advertising. But that may diminish over time as tablets become a less exotic part of the media landscape.
For now, the audience is still small. The OPA research estimates about 12% of the U.S. Internet population (ages 8 to 64), or 25 million people, owns or uses a tablet regularly. But the trade group projects the number of tablet users will more than double to 54 million -- or 23% of Internet users -- by early next year.
As of today, it's still mostly an early-adopter crowd. Tablet users skew young (18 to 34), male (60%). More than two-thirds have household income of $35,000 or higher. In terms of tablet model, Apple dominates the category. More than two-thirds own an iPad or iPad 2, with various Android-based devices making up most of the remainder.
Whatever kind of tablet they have, people are using them mostly at home. More than half (58%) of time spent with tablets is at home, while the balance is at work or school (21%), in the car (16%) and while shopping (5%).
The OPA study results were based on an online survey of 2,482 people between the ages of 8 and 64 conducted from April 15 to April 20 this year.