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AARP: baby boomers are not comfortable with the Internet -- really?
Glass half full -- or half empty? Surprise! This new AARP study about Social Media and the Internet overrides previous assumptions about the 50-64 age range and comfort level with the Internet. Let's count just 40% of boomers as a fit with that description:17% indicate they are extremely comfortable and 23% are very comfortable. Only 26% access the Internet via a laptop and only 4% through smart phones or cell phones -- 57% use a desktop computer. Only 27% are using social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter -- dominated by Facebook.
Children and grandchildren are the leading connections. No surprise as to who boomers are connecting with -- their children (62%) and grandchildren (36%) and (surprise) 73% are connected to other relatives. Among those introduced to the Internet by a family member,sixty-three percent credited this to their children.
So much for the iPad -- at least as of May 2010. This survey confirms any assumptions at Apple about not bothering with boomers. While 83% had heard of the iPad, only 2% have one and 88% aren't interested. Their plans for use -- if they had one, which they don't -- are typical as asked: they would browse the web, read news, share photos.
Still reading after all these years. The newspaper print industry is not dead -- 66% are using a combination of print and online to get their news. Meanwhile, a staggering 55% of Hispanics surveyed don't use the Internet at all -- and half use neither online or print for news.
The unasked questions. Questions for this survey were constrained by the iPad demo menus. One wonders, naturally, what other unmet needs an iPad or even (crazy!) an Internet connection through a laptop or desktop might fulfill-- for example, browsing a job-related website? Looking for an online reskilling or lifelong learning course? Are social networking connections used to link to others who share similar chronic conditions? Meanwhile, according to this survey, bloggers like me can just plain give it up -- only 1% of the overall survey read them. But 9% of Hispanics do. Huh? Check that number -- seems out of synch with usage.
Don't take this survey to the bank for a loan. After 9 years at Forrester Research, where I drank the Kool-Aid on surveys and their trend significance, in my post-Forrester period I find myself becoming skeptical, especially on how questions are worded and what to do with the results. Given this survey, should laptop vendors market to boomers, given all those desktops? Should you open a tech store in an all-Boomer neighborhood, give teenage sales reps the title of Rocket Scientists and do some training? Should Apple really give up on boomers -- oops, wish we'd asked if they had an iPhone or Mac. Is this a fabulous opportunity for BlackBerry? And should newspapers breath a sigh of reprieve -- for a while at least -- boomers still love paper. I'd say wait for another survey or (for now) rely on Pew's Internet, Cell Phone, and Broadband Statistics.