Christmas has come up with the goods for the UK tablet market, with Christmas sales bumping up total tablet ownership to 12.2 million adults. That’s almost 30 percent of the UK’s adult online population, and almost one in five of every man woman and child in the country.

It was only in September that YouGov estimated there were fewer than 6 million tablet owners in the UK – so growth is outstripping the pollsters’ ability to measure it.

YouGov’s study today reveals that seven percent of its respondents who don’t own a tablet are planning to buy one before March – so it’s a relatively safe bet to say tablet ownership will reach the 50 ownership percent mark by January 2014.

It’s an astonishing growth rate – let’s not forget Apple only brought this category of device to the mass market in 2010.

Good news?

This new research was commissioned by Newsworks, formerly the Newspaper Marketing Agency, so unsurprisingly the stats are spun as being positive for news publishers.

And in a sense it is: of all those surveyed, 42 percent say they expect news consumption to go up as a result of rising tablet ownership, while that figure is more than half among people under 24.

Despite conspicuously not buying printed newspapers, 40 percent of the under-24 crowd say they’ve downloaded at least one news app. That’s all encouraging stuff.

But on the flipside, the poll shows that more than half of all tablets in the UK are owned by over 45 year-olds. Even more surprisingly, the age category with the most tablets, 3.9 million, is the over-55s. 

Sure, the proportion of ownership among 24-to-35 year-olds is higher (35 percent), but the significantly tablets are owned by over-55s. The rise in tablet ownership isn’t so much helping newspapers reclaim the lost youth market as transferring loyal print readers to tablets

Of course, you would expect the emergence of cheaper tablets to extend ownership rapidly into younger age groups, and YouGov predicts that they will increasingly become less of a preserve of higher earners of all ages as prices come down.

The iPad dominates tablet ownership and Apple gadget owners tend to be wealthier people who are perfectly prepared to cough up for content subscriptions. But the reverse is also true: owners of cheaper devices are going to be less inclinced to cough up for apps and expensive subscriptions.

That means that as the adoption of cheaper tablets continues – tablet sales and content sales will develop at different speeds. Owners of new, cheaper devices will be less prepared to pay for stuff compared to iPad early adopters.

Image via flickr curtousey of kodomut