Old people love to read the news on the iPad. So says a new study by the Reynolds Journalism Institute, which finds that while youngsters like to read the news on their phones, adults in the ancient 35-and-up demographic favor large-media tablets. And while the smartphone crowd checks headlines throughout the day, half of those who prefer tablets do the bulk of their news reading at home, after 5 p.m.
In short, the iPad and its kin are helping a large and growing segment of the population to buck the 24-hour news cycle. Instead, they're returning to a more leisurely, old-fashioned way of consuming the day's news -- not over coffee in the morning, but on the couch after work. That presumably leaves them time to savor long narratives and investigative reports -- formats that media-watchers once feared would perish in the no-attention-span Internet age.
And in a blow to those nostalgic for newsprint, 60 percent of tablet owners say they prefer the news-reading experience on their tablet to that of a printed paper. They prefer it to TV news and the radio by even larger margins. That may be why they report reading more news overall than non-tablet owners.
This all might excite media executives who are pinning their hopes on tablets. Those who read their news mainly on a tablet are much more likely to subscribe to digital news products than those who read it on a smartphone.
Still, no one should expect tablets -- or any other modern gadget -- to resuscitate the business models that once sustained daily p.m. newspapers in every major U.S. city. Instead, the growing tablet-news market seems likely to eat into the remaining audiences of evening TV newscasts, while perhaps nibbling on the dog-eared corners of the morning newspaper industry.