Study finds a wired boomer population fond of traditional methods, including printed pages

Posted: Friday, September 05, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Andrew Krcik gets much of his news online. Yet he still gets The Economist magazine each week and buys a newspaper each day ''just to flip through.''

Call it a habit.

At 47, Krcik is used to the printed pages, more so than younger generations. There's ''a certain comfort in it,'' he says.

Krcik is far from a Luddite who is unwilling to embrace technology. After all, he is vice president of marketing for PGP Corp., a Palo Alto, Calif., company that makes software for scrambling e-mail messages for privacy.

Rather, Krcik, whose name is pronounced KER-chik, is what John Horrigan of the Pew Internet and American Life Project calls ''a wired baby boomer.''

Preliminary data from a report Pew is to release this fall shows Krcik fitting a pattern in which the older tech elite, ages 42 to 62, are fond of technologies yet fall back on more traditional ways and means of doing things.

Forty-four percent of this group go online for news on a typical day, but many more, 60 percent, pick up the newspaper.

By comparison, 39 percent of the younger tech elite, ages 18 to 29, get news online and 42 percent read a newspaper.

''The young tech elite are roughly even as to how they get their news, through newspapers and online, and for the older generation, it's very clearly old media,'' said Horrigan, who is Pew's senior research specialist.

The pattern reflects social conditioning, Horrigan said.

''When the high-tech, 50-year-olds were learning to gather information, they went to card catalogues. They relied on stacks of books in the library,'' Horrigan said. ''For young folks, pretty much everything is done electronically.''

Howard Rosenbaum, 49, a professor of information sciences at Indiana University, said he turns to online sources when he can, but picks up The Herald-Times of Bloomington, Ind., each day for its local news and sports coverage as well as letters to the editor.

''I enjoy reading what my lunatic neighbors write about,'' he said.

Paul Jones, 53, director of the ibiblio.org archival Web site based in Chapel Hill, N.C., prefers the Internet for its diversity of viewpoints, particularly from international news sources, but he still needs the paper for crossword puzzles and photo layouts.

Doug Brougher, 42, a sales representative for Regal Industries Inc. in Crothersville, Ind., finds the Internet useful for breaking news, but prefers the printed word for serendipity stories he might not normally come across just scanning a site's top headlines.

''I always feel like I have tunnel vision when I use Internet news,'' Brougher said. ''I like having the newspaper, knowing I can turn the page and see something else. With news sites, you have a few headlines listed, and anything else you have to dig around for.''

Pew also found wired boomers more likely to do work-related research using the Internet 70 percent compared with 62 percent for younger technophiles.

On the other hand, the younger tech elite are more willing to pay for online materials despite their portrayal by the recording industry as incessant downloaders of free music who don't buy CDs.

Nine percent of the older tech elite have paid for online content, just above the average of 8 percent for all Internet users. By contrast, 13 percent of the young tech elite have paid for content, according to Pew's survey of 1,677 Americans. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 6 percentage points for the subgroups studied.

''The younger generation is more into the interactive aspects of the Internet,'' Horrigan said. ''They are more likely to go to an online group, more likely to download music and more likely to pay for content. Some of those interactive features require you to pay some money.''

When visiting a dictionary reference site, Brougher does whatever he can to find what he needs without accessing the premium sections that require payments.

''I never had to pay to pick up a dictionary or use a thesaurus to find the proper words,'' he said. ''At some point, it seems absurd to be paying an access fee.''



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