Mobile multiplies how much news users consume: report
By Chantal Tode
October 2, 2012
The Economist iPad app
The growing penetration of mobile devices is changing how users consume news, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The report, which was done in collaboration with The Economist Group, suggests that mobile devices are adding to — rather than replacing — how much news people consume. Key findings include that 31 percent of tablet news users say they are getting news from new sources they did not use before
“The biggest number is the growth in the consumption and ownership of smartphones and tablets,” said Paul Rossi, managing director and executive vice president, Americas, at The Economist Group. “We are now looking at 50 percent of the United States audience having access to Internet content from smart devices.
“Consumers are consuming on these devices at a far more aggressive rate than marketers are giving them credit for,” he said. “Readers are moving to these devices and marketing dollars are not following at the same rate.
“There is a huge opportunity here – customers are absolutely engaging with content on these devices and the advertising is working.”
Rather than just clicking headlines on their mobile devices, the report found that 19 percent of adults who consume news on their tablets are reading in-depth articles on a daily basis and 73 read in-depth articles at least sometimes.
Other key findings include that 50 percent of Americans now have mobile Internet access through either a tablet or smartphone, with 22 percent of adults now owning some kind of tablet computer, double the number a year ago. Smartphone ownership now totals 44 percent, up from 34 percent a year ago.
The report also points to mobile advertising opportunities, with 49 percent of tablet news users and 50 percent of smartphone news users sometimes or often noticing ads when they get news on their mobile device. Approximately 15 percent click on ads when getting news on a mobile device and seven percent buy something.
“Advertising works on tablets,” Mr. Rossi said.
“From a marketing standpoint, these devices are opening up a whole new of way of communicating to customers and actually starting to self stuff,” he said.
“There is value in tablet advertising and marketing, which offers the interruptive nature of print plus the benefit of the metrics found in online advertising.”
The findings have implications for how publishers finance news with 19 percent of mobile news consumers having paid for a digital subscription of some kind in the last year. One-third of tablet news users have added digital subscriptions since they got the device.
However, 31 percent of mobile news users report having a print-only subscription and only 24 percent of these are considering giving up their print subscription for a digital one. These users tend to prefer their app-based news to be more like a traditional reading experience.
For news organizations, this means there is an opportunity to reach new audiences with subscriptions but also means there is a need to accommodate the different styles of these audiences.
When it comes to how they use their devices, 64 percent of tablet owners and 62 percent of smartphone owners say they use their device for news at least weekly.
The report also found that consumers are not taking advantage of all the aspects of mobile technology, with most users consuming news via their tablets and smartphones while at home.
Mobile is helping to create a new multi-platform news consumer, with 54 percent of tablet news users also getting news on a smartphone, 77 percent also getting news on a desktop/laptop and 50 percent getting news in print. One-quarter get news on all four platforms.
Pew also found that consumers who get news on their devices multiple times per day, on either the smartphone or tablet, tend to turn to more sources, get news from new sources, read in-depth news articles, watch news videos and send and receive news through email or social networks.
Tablet news consumers who get news more than one time during the day are also twice as likely as those who get news once a day to have paid for news on their tablet at 10 percent versus four percent.
Both smartphone and tablet users seem to prefer the mobile Web, with 60 percent of tablet news users and 61 percent smartphone news users mainly using their browser to get news on these devices. In contrast, 23 percent of tablet news users and 28 percent of smartphone news users mainly go through apps.
The study is based on a survey conducted from June 29 to August 8 among 9,513 adults, including 4,638 mobile device owners.
“From publisher’s standpoint, we have to accept that the adoption of these devices is happening and that, at some point, this will be the dominate way that consumers consume content so you need to start creating value now,” Mr. Rossi said.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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