Skimming Over the iPad

As publishers rush to create and market tablet-ready versions of their most popular magazines, working with ad partners to create interactive advertising that takes full advantage of the device’s capabilities, research conducted by a French consumer-research company calls into question just how much of that content — editorial and, to a lesser extent, advertising — consumers actually remember.

It’s no secret as to why publishers want to be in the iPad space. According to statistics compiled by Nielsen Research, the typical iPad user is a male under the age of 35 who spends up to five hours each day using the device to browse the Internet, check email, access Facebook and Twitter, watch TV shows and movies and read the latest news. More than half of the iPad users Nielsen polled said they are willing to pay for content on their iPad, and, when asked, they are demonstrably more receptive to advertising than owners of other devices.

In other words, for publishers and advertisers, iPad users would appear to be perfect in every way.

But in a recent white paper, researchers for Miratech, a consulting firm that uses eye tracking and other methods to analyze the ways in which consumers experience technology, discovered that although iPad users are tethered to their devices and report having very positive experiences with them, they really aren’t paying very close attention.

The subjects were provided with print and iPad versions of the same material. Eye-tracking technology and post-experiment interviews revealed that participants read twice as many articles on their iPads as they did in the printed newspapers they were given. Additionally, according to the report, eyes linger longer on the paper version, which results in better retention..

Researchers concluded that this was because reading on the iPad is more superficial. After reading, 70 percent of participants recalled specifics from an article they read on the iPad, compared with 90 percent for the newspaper. “People skim through the information [on the iPad]; they concentrate less and less information is retained,” the report concluded.

Interestingly, the results regarding user engagement with and retention of advertising messages are much less dire. The research revealed that users looked at 26 percent of the ads that appeared in the material on the iPad, as opposed to 21 percent of the ads that appeared in the printed material.

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