Although tablet owners spend more time consuming news than poking around on Facebook, they’re reluctant to pay for news content.

That’s according to a study titled “The Tablet Revolution” from the Pew Research Center’s Project for the Excellence in Journalism, due out on Tuesday. It found that 11 percent of American adults own a tablet of some kind, and a majority of them spend 90 minutes a day using the device.

Consuming news is one of the most popular activities, up there with email and more popular than social networking. Only general Web-browsing proved more popular on tablets than news and email.

“The study also finds some striking differences in tablet use versus other kinds of digital consumption,” the authors noted.

“People, for instance, are highly likely to read long articles on their tablets, not just get headlines. But the expectation that people would gravitate to “apps” on their tablets — which they would pay for and which would offer a richer user experience — has not really come to pass, at least not yet.” (Read the study here.)

Just 14 percent of tablet users said they have paid for news content on their tablets. Another 23 percent, though, pay for a print subscription that includes tablet content. So in all, about a third of tablet users have paid to access news on their gadgets.

“That is a much higher number than previous research has found more broadly of people paying for digital content,” the report says. Nonetheless, a “large majority” of people who have not paid for news are “reluctant to do so, even if that was the only way to get news from their favorite sources,” the report adds.

This is bad news for media companies hoping to boost revenue by charging for content on the iPad and other tablets. Of the people who have not paid directly to access news on their tablet, just 21 percent said they would spend $5 a month if that was the only way to access their favorite news outlet.

Apps, it turns out, are not the most popular way to access news content. Only 21 percent of tablet owners said they get their news mainly through apps they have downloaded. By contrast, 40 percent said they get their news mainly by way of a Web browser, while 31 percent said they use apps and the browser equally.

Other major findings as cited by the authors:

Revenue

“The revenue potential for news on the tablet may be limited. At this point just 14% of tablet news users have paid directly to access news on their tablet. Another 23% get digital access of some kind through a print newspaper or magazine subscription. Still, cost is a factor, even among this heavy news consuming population. Of those who haven’t paid directly, just 21% say they would be willing to spend $5 per month if that were the only way to access their favorite source on the tablet. And of those who have news apps, fully 83% say that being free or low cost was a major factor in their decision about what to download.”

Brand

“Brand is important on the tablet. Whether an app comes from “a news organization I like” is as prevalent a factor in the decision to download an app as is low cost. Liking the news organization is a major factor for 84% of those who have apps. In addition, among both app and browser respondents surveyed about their behavior over the last seven days, the most common way by far to get news headlines was by going directly to a news organization’s content.”

Targeted apps

“Fully 90% of app users went directly to the app of a specific news organization, compared with 36% that went to some sort of aggregator app like Pulse. And, 81% of those who went through their browser accessed news headlines via a direct news website, compared with 68% who went through a search engine and about a third (35%) that went through a social network.”

Substitution

“Substitution is already occurring to large degrees. Fully 90% of tablet news users now consume news on the tablet that they used to get access in other ways. The greatest substitution is occurring with news that people used to get from their desktop computer.

“Eight-in-ten tablet news users say they now get news on their tablet that they used to get online from their laptop or desktop computer. Fewer respondents, although still a majority, say the tablet takes the place of what they used to get from a print newspaper or magazine (59%) or as a substitute for television news (57%).”

What’s read

“Incidental news reading is prevalent on the tablet. Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) of those who read long articles in the last seven days ended up reading articles they were not initially seeking out. In addition, 41% went back and read past articles or saved articles for future reading.

“Those who rely mainly on apps for news, 21% of all tablet news users, represent a kind of power news consumer. Close to half of this group say they now spend more time getting news than they did before they had their tablet (43%). That is more than twice the rate of those who mainly go through a browser (19%). App users are also more than three times as likely as browser news users to regularly get news from new sources they did not turn to before they had their tablet (58% versus 16% for browser users).”

Sharing news

“Word of mouth is a key component of tablet news sharing. Fully 85% of those who get news on their tablets said they had talked with someone about a long article they had read there. This is more than twice the percentage who say they had shared articles electronically. Some 41% of tablet news users say they share news through email or social networking at least sometimes. And when a select group was asked specifically about their behavior in the last seven days, again about four in ten say they had shared news content through social networking sites or email.”

Apple dominates

“When it comes to ownership, many see the tablet computer as more of a household device to share than as a strictly personal one. Half of those with a tablet share it with other members of the household. And the iPad still dominates the market-81% of tablet owners in this survey own the Apple product.”

The study was conducted on landlines and cell phones from June 30 to July 31 among 5,014 adults in the U.S.

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