When it comes to news consumption, mobile devices are expanding reach, rather than cannibalizing other media, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The proliferation of devices is creating a new kind of “multiplatform” news consumer embracing new technologies without necessarily abandoning older formats.
More than half (54%) of tablet news users, for example, also get news on a smartphone, 77% do so on a desktop or laptop, and half read news in print. One-quarter get news from all four platforms. Also, 43% of tablet news consumers say their tablets add to the amount of time they spend with the news, and 31% say they are getting news from sources they didn’t use before.
Nearly a quarter (22%) of adults now own some kind of tablet computer -- double the number a year ago (11%), and smartphone ownership has risen from 35% to 44%. As a result, half of all Americans now have mobile Internet access.
Fully 64% of tablet owners and 62% of smartphone owners say they use the devices for news at least weekly, and a third of all U.S. adults get news on a mobile device at least once a week. Some 73% are reading in-depth articles on their tablets sometimes, and 19% daily.
But is all that activity paying off for digital publishers? The study indicated that the expanding tablet universe is not translating into a greater willingness to pay for content. Only 6% said they had ever paid for news on their tablet compared to 14% in 2011. Nearly a fifth (19%) of mobile news consumers (on tablet and/or smartphone) have paid for a digital subscription in the last year. Almost a third (31%) have a print-only sub. Just a quarter (24%) are considering giving up a print for a digital sub.
The findings on advertising were more promising. Half of mobile news users sometimes or often notice ads when they’re browsing news on tablets or smartphones. Roughly 15% click on ads when getting news on either of these devices, and about 7% actually purchase. That compares favorably to desktop click rates that average well below 1%.
Other key takeaways from the Pew study:
*Just over half -- 52% -- of tablet owners report owning an iPad compared with 81% year ago. Fully 48% now own an Android-based device, including two in 10 -- or 21% -- who own a Kindle Fire.
*The distinction between apps and browsers may be becoming less important. Sixty percent of tablet news users and 61% on smartphones mainly use the browser for accessing news. Less than half as many -- 23% on tablet and 28% on smartphone -- go through apps. Another 16% and 11%, respectively, say they use apps and the browser equally.
The study was based on a survey conducted from June 29 to August 8 among 9,513 adults, including 4,638 mobile device owners.