Mobile Media Consumption Varies by Income Level

Source: September 26, 2012 by MarketingCharts staff

Among smartphone owners, income level and mobile media consumption appear to positively correlate, with wealthier device owners more likely than their lower-income counterparts to engage in each of 6 activities identified, finds Nielsen [download page] in a September 2012 report. For example, some 54% of wealthier (household incomes – or HHI – greater than $100k) smartphone owners accessed the mobile internet in Q4 2011, compared to 44% of those with HHI between $30k and $100k, and 40% of those with HHI under $30k.

A similarly broad gap exists in mobile application usage. While 42% of wealthier smartphone owners used mobile apps, only 32% of middle-income and 26% of lower-income Americans did the same. The same descending pattern was true for use of location-based services (35%, 25%, and 20% respectively) and mobile shopping (20%, 15%, and 11%).

Income appears to have less impact on mobile video and TV consumption (16% vs. 14% vs. 12%) patterns, at least on a percentage point basis, though relatively speaking, the gap in usage between the lower- and higher-income households is still 33%. On a relative basis, the gap in use is narrowest for mobile social networking (36% vs. 34% vs. 32%).

This discrepancy may be due to the higher-income group have greater access to more sophisticated smartphones, or having less concerns about data usage and costs.

Smartphone, Tablet Penetration Rises Alongside Income Levels

Details from “The Economic Divide: How Consumer Behavior Differs Across the Economic Spectrum” indicate that (somewhat unsurprisingly) higher-income Americans are more likely to own a smartphone (59%) than the middle-income (45%) and lower-income (35%) brackets.

The income divide is even more pronounced in tablet ownership. The penetration rate is almost 8 times higher among upper-income households than lower-income households (31% vs. 4%), and is roughly 2.5 times higher than middle-income households (12%).

Lower-Income Consumers Spend More Time Online

The report finds that the average US consumer spends 24 hours 51 minutes online per month, but lower-income consumers spend 30 hours and 8 minutes online, compared to 23 hours and 24 minutes for upper-income consumers. Medium-income consumers are about average at 24 hours and 27 minutes.

Video streaming patterns may contribute to these figures. Lower-income consumers view 6 hours 38 minutes per month, compared to 3 hours and 36 minutes per month for higher-income consumers. Also true, Facebook use descends as income rises (9 hours 5 minutes per month in lower-income households vs. 5 hours 16 minutes for upper income), as does Netflix use (16 hours 24 minutes vs. 7 hours 1 minute).

While higher-income Americans might be spending less time online than their lower-income counterparts, it appears their internet consumption is trending up. According to Ipsos MediaCT’s recent “Mendelsohn Affluent Survey,” internet consumption by affluents is up by 14% this year over 2011, with particular growth seen in social networking, shopping and entertainment sites. It bears noting that the Ipsos study found much higher average internet use than did Nielsen. In fact, the Ipsos report indicates that affluent consumers spend 37.4 hours per week online; more hours in a week than Nielsen found for a month.

About The Data: The mobile media data is based on Nielsen’s Q4 2011 Mobile Insights, the tablet data on Nielsen NPower May 2012, and the online consumption figures on data from Nielsen Online Custom, 4Q2011, NetView, VideoCensus.

The Ipsos study was fielded beginning in March, and received 13,794 eligible responses before the July 13 deadline. The results were weighted to demographic targets from the US Census to ensure representativeness.

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