Behind the surge in holiday tablet sales
Now almost a third of Americans own an e-reading device
January 23, 2012
messiah-like potential of these gadgets to revive a flagging industry, consumers went gaga over the devices during the holidays, sparking unprecedented growth in the budding sector. Tablet and e-reader ownership went from 18 percent in mid December to 29 percent in January, meaning nearly a third of the U.S. adult population now owns a digital reading device. Individually, tablet and e-reader ownership stand at 19 percent apiece, up from 10 percent apiece last month. Pew was so surprised by the rapid growth that it actually re-commissioned its survey to ensure it had the right results. With the holiday surge, tablets and e-readers became the fastest-growing tech devices in at least the past decade, outpacing even smartphones and MP3s. Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, talks to Media Life about who is buying these devices, why purchases peaked over the holidays, and how these devices will change the publishing industry.
What did you find most interesting or most surprising about this report?
The size of the increased ownership was a big surprise.
We actually commissioned a second survey after we saw the first results just to confirm them because the figures were so different from the December findings. We have never seen an increase of this magnitude this quickly in our 11 years of polling about people’s technology adoption and use.
What’s the most important thing that media buyers and planners can take from it?
Media planners, like many others, are wise to note how quickly the ground is shifting. We have seen in our surveys over the years that the rise of the internet and mobile devices has added complexity to people’s media diets. Most Americans use multiple platforms to get the media they want.
They can’t be exclusively categorized as internet-only users or tablet-only consumers. They use different devices at different moments and depending on their circumstances. So there is a pretty strong imperative for media creators to make their material available on multiple screens.
What really spurred the huge sales of tablets and e-readers this holiday season?
We did not probe that directly, but it’s very clear that the shifting marketplace in both devices was an incentive for purchases. The Kindle Fire and Nook tablet sharply dropped the price point of tablets and the price of newer models of e-book readers fell well below $100. These clearly were popular gifts during the holiday season.
Did the sales rise beyond pre-holiday predictions? Why or why not?
A lot of analysts were predicting these would be popular presents, but I don’t think I saw predictions that had adoption spreading as rapidly as this.
What’s the profile of the average tablet user? What’s driving their purchases?
This looks like a very classic tech adoption story.
The innovators who first got these devices several years ago were young and cosmopolitan. Now the early adoption stage seems to be unfolding and owners are an upscale and older crowd.
One of the most interesting things to see in these data is that there are no racial or ethnic differences in owners and that rural ownership looks pretty much like urban and suburban ownership.
Price is driving this process. Innovation, too. There are new features being added to the devices all the time. And the apps ecosystem is clearly a factor for tablet owners.
What’s the profile of the average e-reader user? What’s driving their purchases?
It was interesting to see that women are outpacing men in owning e-book readers and that the income levels are more diverse for this device. It also helps that more and more books are becoming available in digital form “ both for purchase and for borrowing from libraries.
How do the tablet and e-reader have the potential to reshape the publishing industry (book but also magazine)?
Publishers have moved aggressively into this market, and self-publishing is becoming a force, too. Just this week there have been striking new developments in the e-textbook world.
There is a palpable sense throughout the publishing industry that digital products are the future. Eventually, some are predicting that the experience of reading a book will become quite different in the future as multimedia content is added, as new, revised material is seamlessly introduced to texts, and as people see reading more and more as a social experience that they want to share and contribute to.
Do you think some of these changes will happen sooner rather than later, based on the huge adoption rate?
I’ve never seen timelines on this, but these data might convince people in media companies to speed up whatever they had already planned as the rollout of their digital media products.
Now, your first preview for this year’s Super Bowl
Meet the cord nevers, a subset of Millennials
Trump inauguration draws 30.6 million viewers
Puzzling out Carlos Slim’s bold U.S. ambitions
Coming at you: Media Life’s digital radio series
For once-promising ‘Quantico,’ a second chance
ABC and CBS tie for first on Friday night
Michelle Obama boosts NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’
Richard Beckman hops to a new media venture
Hacker hijinks: Station stuck with anti-Trump song
CBS takes Thursday night with ‘Big Bang Theory’
New York leads the Ellie nominations, once again
CBS’s ‘Hunted’: Little hope of sustaining its big bow
- John Deschner becomes chief innovation officer at TBWA
- Tiffany Egan becomes Australia managing director at DWA
- Robert Langer becomes EVP and CFO at Disney|ABC Television
- Jim Fielding becomes president of consumer products at Fox
- Betty Chen and Tyler Massey join IM Global Television
- Nadine Santos rises to director of programming at Music Choice
- Jane Lynch joins the cast of Discovery Channel's 'Manifesto'
- Kristen Stewart hosting NBC's 'Saturday Night Live'
This week’s broadcast ratings
This week’s cable ratings
This week’s top-rated movies, songs and books
This month’s digital traffic data: November 2016
This week’s daypart ratings
Opening for a media planner at a top OOH agency
Orlando agency looking for a media planner/buyer
Freelance media planner/buyer available
Junior media planner/buyer position in Minneapolis-St. Paul
Media sales coordinator opening in New York