The major survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), in collaboration with The Economist Group. Pew says the era of mobile digital technology has crossed a new threshold, and that this has major implications for how news will be consumed and paid for,
At the centre of the recent growth in mobile is the rapid embrace by Americans of the tablet computer. Nearly a quarter (22%) of US adults now own a tablet – double the number from a year earlier. And nearly a quarter of those who don't have a tablet plan to get one in the next six months. Even more US adults (44%) have smartphones, up from 35% last year.
News remains an important part of what people do on their mobile devices. Nearly two thirds of tablet owners and smartphone owners say they use the devices for news at least weekly. This makes news as popular as email and games on tablets and behind only email on smartphones. This means fully a third of all US adults now get news on a mobile device at least once a week.
Mobile users, moreover, are not just checking headlines on their devices, although nearly all use the devices for the latest new updates. Many also are reading longer news stories. And for many people, mobile devices are adding how much news they consume. More than four in ten mobile news consumers say they are getting more news now and nearly a third say they are adding new sources.
These findings and others in this report build upon a study conducted by PEJ and The Economist Group a year ago that provided an in-depth look at news consumption on tablets among early adopters. The new report, which is based on a survey of 9,513 US adults conducted from June-August 2012 (including 4,638 mobile device owners), probes mobile news habits more deeply across the wider population of users, looks at smart phone use as well, and examines the financial implications of those habits for news.
The survey also finds that consumers have yet to embrace certain features that mobile devices offer. While mobile technology allows people to get news anywhere, and any time, most people get news on these devices when they are at home-and roughly half of mobile news users get news on their device just once a day. Similarly, the use of news apps on mobile devices, which many publishers hoped would be a way to charge for content, remains limited. Most people still use a browser for news on their tablet.
Perhaps most pressing for the industry, the survey shows continued resistance to paying for content on mobile devices. More mobile news users have print-only subscriptions than have digital ones. Just one quarter (24%) of them are considering exchanging their print subscription for a digital one. These tend to be younger subscribers, which suggests their numbers will grow.
When it comes to advertising, there are suggestions that ads seeking to deliver a message or reinforce a brand may have more potential than those tied to e-commerce.
Taken together, the data reveal that, even with a broadening population owning mobile devices that offer a range of activities, owners are still drawn heavily to news. What's more, there is a sizable cohort using mobile devices to broaden and strengthen their news experience, particularly male mobile news consumers who employ both apps and browsers, have a wireless data plan, get news multiple times throughout the day, and across a wide variety of platforms.