Yahoo Sees Huge Usage Spikes on iPads -- Is the Content Business Saved?

The alpha adopter group for Apple's iPad, pictured here, is skewed white, wealthy, middle-aged and male
The alpha adopter group for Apple's iPad, pictured here, is skewed white, wealthy, middle-aged and male

In the ever-evolving world of media, the line has long since blurred between traditional media, bloggers and companies posting information on their own blogs. Yahoo! (YHOO), Google (GOOG) and Facebook regularly post genuinely newsworthy observations about behavior on their respective networks. This week, the Yahoo Mobile blog put up a fascinating breakdown of who the Apple (AAPL) iPad users are and how they're behaving on Yahoo! properties.

In a nutshell, they're rich white guys who spend a lot more time consuming media than do other Yahoo users coming over the normal Internet or via other mobile devices.

Early Adopters of New Technology

Not surprisingly, the iPad alpha adopter group was skewed white, wealthy, middle-aged and male. This tends to be the case for all new product adoptions because, for better or for worse, that demo seems to always dominate the frenzied first months after a product launch. Male users outnumber females 2-to-1. According to Yahoo's metrics, the group was 94% more likely to be in an upper-income bracket.

Now, some of this is likely determined by the average user age on Yahoo properties, which is somewhat determined by their email account preference. (Gmail and America Online users are, on average, slightly younger than Yahoo mail users, according to social insights and reputation company RapLeaf.)

The big shocker, however, was penetration numbers of iPad users on Yahoo Finance, Sports, News and Flickr (the photo-sharing site). This is roughly a measurement of how often per month Yahoo users visit those sites. According to its server logs, Yahoo found that iPad owners' usage of these sites was, on average, 100% higher than -- double -- that of other users. Flickr usage was nearly 150% higher, with Sports, News and Finance all coming in near or around 100% higher.

iPad = More Reading?

Translation? IPads may result in higher media consumption and greater rates of engagement. This makes sense considering that everyone I have talked to who has an iPad says it's a completely different experience, a weird mix between reading a magazine and watching a TV show. Another surprise was how many of these Yahoo users came from Europe and Asia, where iPad sales have been very limited. This suggests that, particularly among die-hard Apple fans, the device is perhaps more of a "must-buy" than the U.S. media has suggested.

What might the implications of this be for Apple and the media business? It's still very early. But here are a few. First, if the iPad really can increase consumption, then it could, in the end, play a significant role in reviving the fortunes of the content-based Internet and improving the lot of the likes of Yahoo and AOL (AOL), both of which are rapidly ramping up content-creation efforts.

However, whether the iPad will save legacy media business remains entirely unclear. Visits to Yahoo are a poor correlation technique for, say, readership of The New York Times online or, more important, willingness to pay for access to these legacy properties. At a minimum, it's promising that the iPad is more sticky than the Web and that media consumption untethered from a standard PC or a mobile device is so much more engrossing.

More Good News for Apple

For Apple, the implications are perhaps even more promising. The higher consumption rate is likely to mean that Apple's online advertising network will have significant inventory and a very sticky platform. I know, Apple only has a mobile ad network at this point, but I'd say chances of it moving that network over onto the iPad are close to 100%. That could open up an entirely new and, until now, relatively unexpected income stream for the Cupertino, Calif., company.

(Disclosure: Alex Salkever owns Apple stock)