Tablet News Readers Significant, But Only a Harbinger...

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, in collaboration with The Economist Group, 77% of tablet owners use their tablet every day. They spend an average of about 90 minutes on them. Eighteen months after the introduction of the iPad,11% of U.S. adults now own a tablet computer of some kind. 53% get news on their tablet every day, and a majority says they would not be willing to pay for news content on these devices.

U.S. Tablet Owners and News Consumption


% of Owners

Population ownership


   Use tablet daily


   Daily news consumers


Source: Pew Research Center, October 2011

Consuming news (from the latest headlines to in-depth articles and commentary) ranks as one of the most popular activities on the tablet, compared to those as, or more popular than:

  • Sending and receiving email (54% email daily on their tablet)
  • Social networking (39%)
  • Gaming (30%)
  • Reading books (17%)  
  • Watching movies and videos (13%)

The only activity that people said they were more likely to do on their tablet computer daily is browse the web generally (67%).

The survey also finds that three-in-ten tablet news users (defined for this study as the 77% of all tablet users who get news at least weekly) say they now spend more time getting news than they did before they had their tablet. Just 4% say they spend less time while two-thirds (65%) spend about the same amount of time.

Tablet News Habits


% of Tablet Owners

Consume news daily


Spend more time getting news than before owning tablet


Turn to new sources on tablet


Read in-depth articles on tablet


Source: Pew Research Center, October 2011


More than two thirds (68%) of tablet users describe themselves as people who follow news "all or most of the time," versus more occasional news consumers (18% follow news "just some of the time," and 9% follow it "now and then"). This outpaces U.S. adults overall, among whom 56% follow news all the time, and a quarter just some of the time, according to a separate Pew Research survey from 2010.

News Consumers


% of Segment



Follow News All the Time

Prefer News Reading/Listening vs.Watching

Tablet Users



Total population



Source: Pew Research Center, October 2011

One reason early tablet adopters may have integrated the devices so significantly into their daily lives is tied to the demographic profile of the tablet-owning population. Tablet users tend to be more highly educated and have a higher household income than U.S. adults overall. In addition, more tablet users are in their 30s and 40s than the public overall, and they are more likely to be employed fulltime.

Tablet User Demographics (Compared to General Population)


Tablet Users

General Public

College graduate +



Family income $75,000 +



Employed full time















Source: Pew Research Center, October 2011

The study reveals that, while about two-thirds of tablet news users have a news app on their tablet, the browser, carried over from the desktop experience, is still the more popular means of consuming news. A plurality of tablet news users say they get their news mainly through a web browser. Another 31% use news apps and the browser equally, while fewer get their news primarily through apps.

Primary News Access Methodology on Tablet

Access method

% of Users

Mostly through browser


Mostly through apps


Through both equally


Don’t know


Source: Pew Research Center, October 2011

Whether people will pay for content, though, still appears to be a challenge, says the report, even on the tablet. Just 14% of these tablet news users have paid directly for news content on their tablets. Another 23%, though, have a subscription to a print newspaper or magazine that they say includes digital access. Thus, the percent of these early tablet news users who have paid either directly or indirectly for news on their tablet may be closer to a third. Still, a large majority of those who have not paid directly for news on their tablet remains reluctant to do so, even if that was the only way to get news from their favorite sources.

Nearly two-thirds of tablet users turn to the internet for most of their news about national and international issues. That is a full 20 percentage points more than the population overall (43%), according to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center. But the tablet population is not anti-print. Close to half of these tablet users subscribe to a print newspaper or magazine.

Principal findings include:

  • Cost to access news on their tablet 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.
  • An app coming 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. 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 35% that went through a social network.
  • 90% of tablet news users now consume news on the tablet that they used to get access in other ways. 80% of tablet news users say they now get news on their tablet that they used to get online from their laptop or desktop computer. 59% of respondents say the tablet takes the place of what they used to get from a print newspaper or magazine , and 57% say as a substitute for television news.
  • 88% of those who read long articles in the last seven days ended up reading articles they were not initially seeking. In addition, 41% went back and read past articles or saved articles for future reading.
  • Close to half of the app users 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
  • 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.

For additional details and information about the study, please visit the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism here.

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