‘Tech Elite’ Push the Most Buttons

The TV is competing for the undivided attention of viewers, as a Pew Internet & American Life Project report finds that the medium, along with the landline telephone, are receding into the technology background for new media enthusiasts.

The October 2002 survey of nearly 1,700 Americans focused on personal technologies, revealing that a greater proportion of enthusiastic tech users would find it more difficult to do without their computer, cell phone, and Internet than their television and landline telephone.

Along with these key findings, Pew’s research revealed Americans’ growing dependency on new media, technology, and information sources, while categorizing enthusiasts as the “tech elite.” This group has three distinct subsets, which comprise 31 percent of the population and are the most voracious consumers of information goods and services. They are:

  • The “Young Tech Elites” have an average age of 22, and account for 20 percent of the highest adopters.
  • “Older Wired Baby Boomers” have an average age of 52, and they also represent 20 percent.
  • Representing the largest segment are “Wired GenXers” at 60 percent, with an average age of 36.

Generational differences are exhibited, and John B. Horrigan, principal author of the report and senior research specialist at the Pew Internet & American Life Project, notes that each group are “likely to take their preferences into the future with them, continuing to value their technololgies.”

“We can reasonably infer that in 30 years, the young tech elites will be the wired older baby boomers,” Horrigan commented. “They will try new technologies and fold them into their daily rhythms.”

The survey offered revealing insight about new media adoption rates. For example, DVD player penetration in American households grew from 16 percent in 2000 to nearly half of all homes in 2002, while significantly fewer households used pagers in 2002 than they did two years prior. Additionally, both Internet penetration and cell phone penetration rates jumped the same 38 percentage points between 1996 and 2002.

Even among the less tech-savvy groups, which Pew identifies as the “young marrieds,” “low-tech older baby boomers,” “unwired young baby boomers,” and “low-tech elderly,” certain technology use is evident. Two-thirds of the young marrieds are Internet users; 60 percent of low-tech baby boomers are cell phone users; 47 percent of unwired young baby boomers are DVD users; and even 39 percent of the low-tech elderly use cell phones.

American’s Media Preferences:
The percentage who say it would be very hard
to give up certain technololgies
Media Young
The Rest All
Computer* 74% 64% 54% 25% 40%
Internet* 68% 55% 51% 22% 39%
Cell phone* 58% 50% 45% 31% 38%
E-mail* 57% 49% 44% 23% 36%
Telephone 56% 57% 67% 63% 64%
Television 48% 50% 46% 48% 48%
Cable TV* 40% 25% 34% 40% 37%
PDA* 23% 32% 26% 15% 24%
Newspaper 12% 21% 14% 17% 19%
Magazine 11% 16% 11% 11% 13%
% of respondents 6% 6% 18% 70% 100%
* Asked only of those use this particular technology
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

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