Gadgets and Games

Study Reveals Changing Role of iPads, Tablet PCs

The tables are turning -- and the tablets are taking over. 

You might think that as a TV news presenter, I would be concerned about a new Nielsen study that shows that 70 percent of tablet owners and 68 percent of smartphone owners use their devices while watching television. This means I may not have your undivided attention when you’re watching Fox & Friends.

Nielsen also reported that 61 percent of eReader owners use their device in bed, while 57 percent of tablet owners and 51 percent of smartphone owners do the same. People are consuming media, emailing and social networking in bed -- and they're watching TV all around the house.

Personally, I’m not concerned though. In fact, I'm a-ok with the changing ways in which people watch TV these days. And heck, I'm guilty of the same thing.

My iPad and iPhone are like the dog I don’t have: always by my side. I’m not surprised that others do the same while watching TV. This is called “stacking,” according media theorist Don Tapscott: one screen plays something for the whole household, while another sits in the lap, surfing at the individual’s whim.

Tablet owners spend more time on their tablets while watching TV than owners of eReaders and smartphones. So the tablet is taking away marketshare from television, at least according to Nielsen. Once again, I’m not worried.

In my experience, those who are afraid of changing media are the ones who get pink slips when companies fail to adapt. My employer News Corp seems to be embracing these changes with iPad-optimized sites and its daily news magazine, The Daily. 

I've said many times that TV is the new radio. When there is no breaking news, people keep it on for background noise, information and entertainment. Gone are the days when a family sits around the tube, collectively focused like a laser on their screens.

The aforementioned Nielsen study shows that eReaders are used more in bed than any other gadget.

And just as eReaders weren't the death knell for books -- not yet, anyway -- tablets aren't the death knell for television. Both are steps in a logical, natural evolution. People are still watching television. They are just watching it more individually. 

Sure, technology is changing old media, but at the same time it's preserving that media too.