Online Publishers Association Report on Tablet Usage Paints Complex, Evolving Picture

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ADOTAS – The Online Publishers Association released its second “Portrait of Today’s Tablet User” report yesterday, intending to explain something about who tablet users are, how they’re using their tablets, what content they’re choosing to pay for, what they’re spending money on via their tablets and how, and their attitudes about tablet advertising.

Some key takeaways: As one might expect, tablet usage is rising, and according to the report, tablet users account for 31 percent of the U.S. internet-using population now, up from 12 percent in 2011. At that rate, the OPA predicts that figure will jump to 47 percent by 2013. People are using tablets much more often at home than anywhere else (67 percent of tablet usage happens at home), and they’re using it in the “snacky” ways so many experts have referred to — while 74 percent of tablet users said they used their tablets daily, more specifically, 60 percent said they used their tablets several times per day, 85 percent reported they used their tablets while also watching television (and 66 percent reported engaging in a TV/PC/mobile device multitasking experience) 94 percent said they used tablets to “access content/information”  (54 percent said they watched videos, 49 percent said they look up weather information, 41 percent said they checked local news, 37 percent checked national news, 36 percent engaged with entertainment-related content — the report broke down stats around further activities). When it comes to video, 92 percent of the video watched was reported to be short-form news and entertainment. While tablet owners seem to be reliable app users — 70 percent said they “regularly” use at least half the apps they download — the largest percentage (41 percent) of newspaper or magazine readers said they preferred to access content from those publications via the mobile web, and 77 percent of tablet apps downloaded in the past year were free apps. That said, overall, people who paid for content over tablets, compared to the set of all tablet users, found tablet apps harder to ignore, more eye-catching and more interesting, and they were more inclined than the average tablet user to make a purchase, research a product or feel inclined to make a purchase. There’s a lot more data in the report, which you can peruse here.

It’s a lot to chew on, and instead of presenting some clear and unified trends, it seems to suggest marketers ought to approach the tablet audience a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. That said, OPA president Pam Horan offered some suggestions via an email exchange. “First and foremost, tablet ads are evoking response in users,” she said. “Also, tablet users spent an average of $359 purchasing products  from their tablets in the last year, the leading categories being media and entertainment, retail and apparel, consumer electronics, and personal care and beauty.”

The OPA report restates a lot of factors other studies and anecdotal reports have been suggesting throughout 2012, and yet Horan insisted the sheer numbers at stake still make it worth taking note. “When considering how much larger the tablet population is this year compared to when we conducted the study in 2011, publishers are very encouraged by the percentage of consumers willing to open their wallets to pay for original content,” she said. “It is virtually unchanged from last year when the tablet population was much smaller.”

Tablet users’ apparent receptiveness to advertising — whether or not they’re paying for content or apps — makes them a desirable audience for advertisers, Horan comment. “In addition to paid digital subscriptions and paid apps, advertising remains a very important revenue stream,” she said. “Our study found that tablet users are responding positively to apps and taking action.” And people who pay for content are particularly receptive, she pointed out, per the stats we’ve excerpted above. “When advertisers are considering where to allocate their mobile dollars, they should consider where the audience is more receptive, favorable and likely to take action,” she said. “Our research shows that this audience is interacting with content-rich media pages and apps.”

One important thing worth pointing out regarding this study: It was conducted at the end of March, shortly after the new iPad was launched. In other words, the effects of older model iPads being readily available at a smaller price tag hadn’t yet become apparent. The demographics and behavior of the tablet-friendly audience has been evolving fast, and already, the OPA report saw tablet users as starting to skew older. Others have predicted that if prices decline, the tablet may become the preferred connected device for lower-income households. “Tablet owners are no longer just the early adopters – we have seen this device catch on like wildfire,” Horan observed. “Also, as more tablets are introduced at different price points, the growth in tablet adoption will continue. Less-expensive options like the Kindle Fire and  Barnes + Noble Nook  are capturing market share, 28 percent and 29 percent respectively.

“The impact we have seen with the tablet since it was launched two and a half short years ago far exceeds the adoption of any other consumer technology,” Horan said.  Further, we are seeing the time spent with tablets increasing significantly across the board.

The full report is available for download at the Online Publishers Association’s website.

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