News for Digital Journalists

February 03, 2011

Three generational gadget trends for news orgs to watch

Today the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a new report, Generations and their gadgets, which explores current trends in the types of tech devices people in different age groups own, and how they use them.

Here are three trends that have special significance to the news business…

Picture-taking is most popular cell phone activity. 85% of American adults own cell phones. According to Pew, the single most popular non-voice-call activity that people do with their phones is taking pictures—76% of cell phone owners take pictures with their phones, while only 72% do text messaging.

The Pew report does not specifically indicate how many people use their phones to share photos via MMS, e-mail, social media, etc. That’s probably a much smaller group. However, the vast popularity of mobile photography does indicate that news organizations should consider ways to put community-contributed cell phone photos to use. Anything so popular could be a path to engage your audience.

Tablets are still a niche market. While iPads are all the rage in tech news and advertising, and while some news organizations (most notably News Corp, with this week’s launch of The Daily) are focusing considerable resources toward serving this specific device, so far only 5% of US adults own a tablet of any kind.

This percentage will undoubtedly grow—but it’ll be quite a while before tablets attract anywhere near the potential media market as the mobile web, or even text messaging or e-mail. Consider carefully which mobile market would best serve your business and advertising strategy.

MP3 players are especially popular with young adults. 74% of Americans aged 18-34 own an MP3 player, vs. just 56% of those aged 35-46. So if you’re trying to engage younger adults, consider downloadable audio content—especially podcasts, or perhaps music packages to complement your culture and entertainment coverage.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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