iPad Readers Are Dumber Than Newspaper Readers

Linda Sharps

Yes, that's a deliberately sensationalistic title up there, and it's frankly more than a little misleading. Which is exactly the sort of attention-grabbing, bad-data vibe given off by a recent study that compares iPad and newspaper reading patterns.

The study was performed by a French company called Miratech, who used eye tracking technology to research how people read newspaper articles on the iPad as compared to how they read an actual print newspaper. The result? While reading rates are similar, iPad readers are more likely to skim the content, while newspaper readers have a better chance of retaining the information they read.

"For concentration and retention, paper is the clear winner," the company said.

So are iPad owners just a bunch of easily distracted mouth-breathers? Does this prove that iPads are just shiny toys while printed newspapers provide the serious stuff? Maybe, but it's more likely the study is crap. Here's why:

It's unknown how many people participated in the study. Five? Five thousand? It makes a difference, after all. A similar study conducted by the same company looked at about 20 people. With such a small sample size, the margin of error goes way up.

The research was flawed. Half the participants read the newspaper version first, then the iPad version. Uh, wouldn't you skim the content if you'd just read it?

The company may not be entirely objective.
Miratech is a user experience consulting firm whose clients include a number of big brands. I'd be interested to know if a client funded this study, and whether or not they have a vested interest in proving the superior value of advertising in printed media.

I'm not sharing this story with you in order to defend the iPad—in fact, I personally would much rather read a printed newspaper than a digital version. I have no doubt that I retain more information from a printed news article, if for no other reason than I tend to read them while I'm drinking my coffee at the kitchen table, not on a device that also lets me check my email, look at Twitter, and play a game.

My point simply is that some studies are just junk science, but they get picked up, re-published, and eventually used to provide some kind of validation. In this case, I'm guessing that might be to sell more print ads.

Study aside, do you think iPad readers generally skim more than read?

Image via Apple

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