Intrigued, But Not Immersed: Millennial Students Analyze the iPad's Performance as a News Platform

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The arrival of Apple’s iPad tablet in 2010 was trumpeted as a pivotal, game-changing moment for the news business. But did the iPad’s initial news applications live up to the much-hyped promise of …

The arrival of Apple’s iPad tablet in 2010 was trumpeted as a pivotal, game-changing moment for the news business. But did the iPad’s initial news applications live up to the much-hyped promise of delivering a more immersive news experience? The author, using two iPads obtained through a university pilot program, assigned 28 digital journalism students to rate and analyze iPad news apps during the fall 2010 semester. The iPads were rotated among the students, who examined their chosen news app over a period of at least four days. This study, employing a uses-and-gratifications theoretical framework, asked students to evaluate each app based on four factors: immediacy/urgency, non-linear news presentation, multimedia news content, and reader interactivity. Students were most impressed with multimedia news offerings (awarding an average of 3.7 points on a 5-point scale), but were less enamored with the apps’ interactivity (3.3 points) and immediacy (3.1). While many students said they believe the iPad holds promise as a news platform, they generally preferred existing news websites and legacy news products to their iPad counterparts. With some 50 million U.S. millennials (age 18 to 29) now forming what could be lifelong news habits, the study provides early insight into how this crucial demographic is reacting and responding to the tablet as a news medium.

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  • 1. Intrigued, But Not Immersed:Millennials Analyze the iPad’sPerformance as a News Platform
    International Symposium on Online Journalism
    Austin, Texas – April 1, 2011
    Jake Batsell, assistant professor
    Southern Methodist University
  • 2. Methodology
    The ground rules
    • iPad pilot program
    • 3. Two classes
    • 4. 4-day checkouts
    • 5. Assigned ratings
    √ Immediacy
    √ Non-linear presentation
    √ Multimedia
    √ Interactivity
    • Blogged reviews
  • Methodology
    Sample overview
    • 26 female, 2 male
    • 6. 27 in 20s, 1 in 40s
    • 7. 27 U.S., 1 Bulgarian
    • 8. 3 Hispanic
    • 9. 1 Asian-American
    • 10. 1 African-American
    • 11. Typical participant was white, female American millennial college student
    • Small sample (28)
    • 12. Millennials aren’t the news industry’s target consumer for iPad apps – yet
  • Findings
    • Avg score = 3.1/5
    • 13. Surprisingly stale
    • 14. “Old news”
    • 15. Updated once daily
    • ESPN ScoreCenter
    • 16. Glamour
    • New York Post
    • 17. ABC News
    Image credit: American Journalism Review
  • 18. Findings
    Non-linear presentation
    • Avg score = 3.4/5
    • 19. Passing grade
    • 20. Good customization
    • 21. Awkward navigation
    • 22. Limited options
    • ESPN ScoreCenter
    • 23. New York Times
    • Fox4 News (Dallas)
    • 24. Washington Post
    Image credit: Sports Illustrated
  • 25. Findings
    • Avgscore
    = 3.7/5
    • Occasionally
    • Time Magazine
    • 26. New York Times
    • 27. Ebony’s 65thanniv.
    • 28. ESPN ScoreCenter
    Image credit: American Journalism Review
    • New York Times: “The picture is unbelievably clear (much better than that on the iPhone), and the sound isn’t muffled like it can be on the iPhone”
    • 30. New York Post: “Interactivity and multimedia content were very minimal (huge bummer).”
  • Findings
    • Avgscore
    = 3.3/5
    • Largely disappointing
    • MTV News
    • 32. People Magazine
    Image credit: American Journalism Review
    • Ebony: “I think they should look into expanding readers’ options even further, and they might consider linking to some of their sources for those readers who want more.”
    • 33. MTV News: “Don’t bother, MTV. Just stick to your website.”
  • Image credit: American Journalism Review
    • First wave of iPad News apps weren’t immediate or interactive enough for this group of millennials
    • 34. Students said premium apps aren’t worth the extra money yet
    • 35. Too many news apps resemble shovelware
    • 36. Students generally prefer websites to apps
  • Closing Thoughts
    • Millennials’ iPad news experience differs from the GenX & Baby Boomers in Reynolds iPad study
    • 37. Why important? 50 million millennials age 18-29 forming lifelong habits
    • 38. Future research: 2nd wave of tablet apps (Xoom, Galaxy, Playbook, iPad 2)
    Image credit: Texas Monthly
  • 39. Thanks!jbatsell@smu.eduTwitter: @jbatsell