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Tablet Readers Research Flags News as Main Driver

09 Nov 2011

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with The Economist Group, 77 per cent 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 per cent of U.S. adults now own a tablet computer of some kind. 53 per cent get news on their tablet every day, and a majority says they would not be willing to pay for news content on these devices.

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 per cent email daily on their tablet)
  • Social networking (39 per cent)


  • Gaming (30 per cent)
  • Reading books (17 per cent)


  • Watching movies and videos (13 per cent)

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

The survey also finds that three-in-ten tablet news users (defined for this study as the 77 per cent 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 per cent say they spend less time while two-thirds (65 per cent) spend about the same amount of time.

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

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 full time.

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 per cent use news apps and the browser equally, while fewer get their news primarily through apps.

Whether people will pay for content, though, still appears to be a challenge, says the report, even on the tablet. Just 14 per cent of these tablet news users have paid directly for news content on their tablets. Another 23 per cent, 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 favourite 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 per cent), according to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Centre. 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 per cent say they would be willing to spend $5 per month if that were the only way to access their favourite source on the tablet. And of those who have news apps, fully 83 per cent say that being free or low cost was a major factor in their decision about what to download.


  • An app coming from "a news organisation I like" is as prevalent a factor in the decision to download an app as is low cost. Liking the news organisation is a major factor for 84 per cent of those who have apps. And, 81 per cent of those who went through their browser accessed news headlines via a direct news website, compared with 68 per cent who went through a search engine and 35 per cent that went through a social network.


  • 90 per cent of tablet news users now consume news on the tablet that they used to get access in other ways. 80 per cent 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 per cent of respondents say the tablet takes the place of what they used to get from a print newspaper or magazine , and 57 per cent say as a substitute for television news.


  • 88 per cent of those who read long articles in the last seven days ended up reading articles they were not initially seeking. In addition, 41 per cent 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 per cent). That is more than twice the rate of those who mainly go through a browser (19 per cent). 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 per cent 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 per cent of tablet news users say they share news through email or social networking at least sometimes.

Source: Mediapost

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