Americans’ news habits are on the move.
Half of all adult Americans now own either a tablet computer or a smartphone, and one-third use their mobile devices to view news stories and video clips at least once a week.
That’s according to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which polled more than 9,500 adults from late June to early August.
“News remains an important part of what people do on their mobile devices-64 percent of tablet owners and 62 percent of smartphone owners say they use the devices for news at least weekly, tying news statistically with other popular activities such email and playing games on tablets and behind only email on smartphones (not including talking on the phone),” Pew reported Monday.
“This means fully a third of all U.S. adults now get news on a mobile device at least once a week.”
The findings have “major implications for how news will be consumed and paid for,” Pew added.
About 20 percent of the mobile news users surveyed said they paid for an online subscription in the last year.
But mobile viewing doesn’t necessarily mean that people are cutting back on viewing news on PCs or in newspapers. About half of the tablet news users that Pew surveyed say their tablets spur them to spend more time consuming news, and about one-third say they get news from new sources they didn’t use before. Nearly one-third of the mobile users also have print-only subscriptions, and most have no plans to give them up.
Devices based on Google Inc.’s Android platform are gaining momentum. Pew found that just over half of tablet owners reported owning Apple’s iPad, compared with 81 percent a year ago. Forty-eight percent now own an Android-based device, including Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire.
Some key findings from the report:
- The advent of the new lower-priced tablets in late 2011 brought in a new crop of tablet owners. Now, just over half, 52 percent, of tablet owners report owning an iPad, compared with 81 percent a year ago. Nearly half, 48 percent, now own an Android-based device; about half of them, 21 percent, Kindle Fires. iPad owners, however, stand out from Android owners: they use their tablet more often in general and more often for news. Android users are more likely to use social networks and follow news that comes from friends and family.
- Rather than replacing old technology, the introduction of new devices and formats is creating a new kind of “multi-platform” news consumer. More than half, 54 percent, of tablet news users, for instance, also get news on a smartphone; 77 percent get news on a desktop/laptop; 50 percent get news in print, and a quarter get news on all four platforms. Among smartphone news users, 47 percent still get news in print, while 75 percent get news on the laptop/desktop device and 28 percent get news on a tablet.
- There is growing evidence that mobile devices are adding to how much news people get. As many as 43 percent say the news they get on their tablets is adding to their overall news consumption. And almost a third, 31 percent, said they get news from new sources on their tablet. The increases in news activity is heaviest among those who use all four of the major text-based media for news-computers, smartphones, tablets and print. And when people are asked to recall time spent, the evidence suggests multi-device users spend as much time on each platform as other news users-not substituting one for another.
- Two distinct news audiences have emerged on tablets-new-found digital customers and customers who also remain loyal to the print product. Nearly a fifth of mobile news users, 19 percent, have paid for a digital news subscription of some kind in the last year, and a third of tablet news users with digital subscriptions have added new subscriptions since they acquired the device. But even more mobile news users, 31 percent, have print-only subscriptions, and three quarters of these have no plans to give them up. These print subscribers also prefer their app-based news to be more like a traditional reading experience rather than to have high-tech features. For the news organizations, this brings both the potential for new audiences as well as the challenge of accommodating the differing styles and approaches of these distinct audiences.
- People notice ads on mobile devices and may be even more likely to click on them than they are to click on other digital ads. Half of mobile news users (49 percent of tablet news users and 50 percent of smartphone news users) sometimes or often notice ads when they are getting news on their mobile device. Following or acting on these ads is less common: Roughly 15% click on ads when getting news on one of the mobile devices and about 7 percent actually buy something. These figures, however, outpace other digital click-through rates. A recent study by Ad Age finds click-through rates on browser-based display ads to be less than 1 percent.
- There has been movement over the last year toward using the browser rather than apps for tablet news consumption. Fully 60 percent of tablet news users mainly use the browser to get news on their tablet, just 23 percent get news mostly through apps and 16 percent use both equally. In 2011, 40 percent got news mostly through a browser, 21 percent mostly through apps and 31 percent used both equally. But as was revealed in the 2011 survey, app news users-and those who use both apps and the browser equally-remain in many ways more engaged and deeper news users than those who mostly use their browser. The browser is preferred on the smartphone as well (61 percent get news mostly through a browser, 28 percent mostly through apps and 11 percent use both equally).