Pew Study: Mobile Means More News

3 minute read
Barry Levine avatar

News wherever your choose. That could be the motto of news in the age of mobile, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study, "The Explosion in Mobile Audiences and a Close Look at What it Means for News", was conducted in June through August, surveyed 9513 adults 18years and older, of which 2013 owned a tablet and 3947 owned asmartphone. Among its key findings: 22 percent of U.S. adults own a tablet, and 64 percent of them get news from that device. Forty-four percent own a smartphone, of which 62 percent use their smartphone to find news.

But the Pew study found that tablets and smartphones, rather than replacing other delivery channels for news, are creating a new kind of “multi-platform” news consumer.

Not Just Headline-Surfing

Fifty-four percent of tablet owners also get news on a smartphone, 77 percent also on a desktop or laptop, and 47 percent still read printed news.

For smartphone news consumers, 28 percent also get news on a tablet, 75 percent on a desktop or laptop, and 47 percent in print. Multi-device users spend as much time on each platform as do other news users of that platform. In other words, multi-platform users are generally not substituting one device for another.

The news that’s being read is not just headline-surfing. The study found that those who get news on their devices several times a day, whether on a smartphone or a tablet, are very engaged. They tend to rely on more sources, including more new sources, and they tend to read in-depth articles, watch news videos, and send and receive news through email or social networks.

Learning Opportunities

A Tale of Two Audiences

On tablets, however, the report found that two mobile news audiences are developing – those who are primarily digital-only consumers, and those mobile users who also remain loyal to print. About a fifth of mobile news consumers have paid for a digital news subscription in the past year and a third of tablet news consumers with digital subscriptions have added other digital subscriptions since they bought the device.

At the same time, nearly a third of mobile news consumers also have print-only subscriptions to news sources, which three-quarters intend to keep. But print aficionados also tend to like a traditional news reading experience on their devices, rather than one with a variety of high-tech features.

The study also suggests that the talk about a “post-PC” era may be overblown -- at least when it comes to news consumers. The desktop or laptop is still a fundamental part of news consumption, even as tablet and smartphone ownership increases, because laptops/desktops are the weekday work tool. For example, 41 percent of mobile news consumers who get news from a laptop/desktop and print still prefer a conventional computer.

Editor's Note: For more Pew Research insights into the impact of mobile devices on news consumption, read The State of News Media 2012.