NYC subway commuters’ reading habits

-- The Tab Farm

Howard Polskin’s The Tab Farm aggregates stories about tablet computers, but also has some original content, “most of it based on me tracking the mobile media consumption habits of New York’s subway commuters on and off since 2010.”

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Here’s what I’ve learned:
* More than half of New York subway riders consume some type of media during their commute.
* And of those mobile media consumers, more than 40% are buried in their smartphones, and another 16% are engaged with their tablets and e-readers.
* As for good old fashion books, 16% of all mobile media consumers on NY subway are reading books during their ride. Newspaper reading in February accounted for 14% of mobile media consumption in the subways.

I asked this one-man research firm to tell Romenesko readers more about his media-consumption reports. Polskin, who works for MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, writes in an email:

These are based on my own observations during my daily commute to and from work. In the morning I get on the subway at 60th and Third in Manhattan and I take the R, N or W train two stops to 57th and 7th. The train is a pretty good cross section of New York City commuters because it’s coming from Queens and it picks up more affluent riders at the first stop in Manhattan. I do the reverse commute at the end of the day. I try to record all media consumption activity I observe in two cars. If the car is too crowded, I settle for just one car. I have a small clipboard where I record the consumption by hand (breaking it down by day and morning and evening). A few people have actually stopped me when I’m doing my research and asked if I’m recording the way people are using their devices.

I am aware that my findings may be different in other NY boroughs, just as I’m sure that train commuters coming from Westchester and Connecticut will be using more tablets and e-readers than subway commuters. But the shifting patterns of media consumption in one specific geographic area is fascinating to me. And the number of people who have their heads buried in an electronic device is amazing — that’s why I originally decided to track this activity. I see many people walking around dangerous subway platforms engaged with their tablets, e-readers and smartphones.

* The Tab Farm

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