By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated October 05, 2012.
Now that half of all U.S. adults have a Net-connected mobile device, how is news consumption being affected? That's the key question asked in a new report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The report found that, with 22 percent of U.S. adults owning a tablet, news continues to be an important part of their owners' lives. Sixty-four percent of tablet owners and 62 percent of smartphone owners are using their devices to view news, up there with such other popular activities as e-mail or playing games. As a result, a third of everyone in the U.S. is getting news from a mobile device at least once a week.
'Multi-Platform' News Consumer
But the devices are not just being used to check headlines. Seventy-three percent of adults who consume news on a tablet also occasionally read in-depth stories, and 19 percent do so every day. On smartphones, 61 percent read longer stories, and 11 percent do so regularly.
With mobile devices being carried around so much, does this mean more news is being consumed? Forty percent of mobile news consumers say they are getting more news now, and almost a third are checking new sources of information.
Instead of replacing old technology, Pew found that the new devices are creating a "multi-platform" news consumer. For example, 54 percent of tablet news consumers also get news on a smartphone, 77 percent also get news on a desktop or laptop, 50 percent also from print, and a quarter from all platforms. A substantial number of smartphone users are similarly getting news from multiple channels.
iPad Share Dropping
Although mobile devices allow news to be obtained anywhere, the survey found out that most people get news on tablets and smartphones when they are home. And, while users could get the news anytime, since they are likely to be carrying or near their mobile device most of the time, about half look at news only once a day.
A factor of concern to publishers is a continued resistance to paying for content on a mobile device. More users who consume news on a mobile device have print-only subscriptions than have digital subscriptions, the report found, and only about a quarter of them would consider exchanging their print subscription for a digital one.
But the landscape is rapidly shifting, especially with the advent of lower priced tablets, such as those using the Android platform. The report found that, while 81 percent of users had an Apple iPad in last year's version of this report, only 52 percent do now. Nearly half, or 48 percent, own an Android-based device, with almost half of the Android owners choosing a Kindle Fire.
The type of device matters, since the study found that iPad owners use their tablet more often in general, and more often for news, while Android owners are more likely to use social networks and follow news that has been sent from family or friends.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, noted that the sales numbers he's seen do not quite match the percentage breakdown of iPad versus Android devices that Pew found. He also pointed to the rise of the Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet and Amazon's Kindle Fire, two customized-Android, reader-focused tablets, whose growing popularity could have an effect on the trajectory of mobile news consumption.
The report was based on a survey of 9,513 U.S. adults conducted June through August, or which 4,638 were mobile-device owners.