Reading between the lines
The packed commuter train is such an anti-social environment. Putting the avoidance of eye contact to one side, one used to be able to get a crude, stereotypical take on what other people in the carriage were like by the newspaper, magazine or book they were reading. But with the anonymous array of mobile devices to hand, individuals just morph into a colourless crowd.
Based on a very biased sample of train carriage commuters travelling in to London from the Home Counties, there is an awful lot of electronic reading on mobile devices. I would say 40% on my journey today were reading books, newspapers or magazines on their e-readers or tablets, others (let’s say 25%) were either playing games or catching up on e-mail or social media on their phones. Another 30% or so were reading a printed newspaper, magazine or book. The rest were asleep. No one was talking.
The national picture, of course, is quite different. According to the NRS Oct-Dec 2011 figures, 13% of adults aged 15+ have used a tablet or e-reader in the last 12 months; the Q1 2012 Ipsos Technology Tracker has tablet ownership now at 9%, so growing but still relatively niche. 61% of adults have read an average issue of any printed national or large regional newspaper and 75% for magazines (NRS). Most of us are awake and everyone talks.
Whilst declining circulations and readership for newspapers and magazines are widely and regularly reported, we should not forget that they still have significant coverage; yet reading on digital devices is still relatively small even if it is growing. One in ten (9%) have viewed a newspaper or magazine via tablet, e-reader or app in the last 12 months (NRS Oct-Dec 2011). In combination, however, the coverage is very strong. Nearly 80 percent of Canadians read a print and/or online version of a daily newspaper. Over here, the NRS will be launching their Print and Digital Data (PADD) this year where UKOM online readership data are fused with NRS print readership.
I must confess that on my daily commute, I might vary some tablet newspaper readership with a paperback novel whilst passing judgements on my fellow commuters based on which brand and version of mobile device they are holding…before I fall asleep.