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Summary:

Smartphones and tablets are now everywhere, leading readers to consume more news, not less. The increase appears to be a good sign but for the fact that few people are paying for news on mobile.

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New research shows that smartphone and tablet-toting Americans are packing their day with more news than ever before, allaying publisher fears that people might quit the news for other digital distractions.

The findings, conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Economist Group, were presented Monday at an advertising week event in New York. They showed that news was the second most popular activity after email on smartphones and tablets, and that people who used both types of devices were likely to consume more overall news than before.

In practice, this means that publishers are adapting to what Denise Warren of the New York Times calls the “multi-platform news user.” Warren says this user is likely to read the Times on a tablet in the morning and in the evenings, and to use their phone as an “interstitial” news device during the day.

Warren added that these trends have led the company to increase its engineering team by 40% in an effort to produce an optimal mobile experience for roving news consumers. Warren also said that subscribers’ expectation to read their news everywhere has led the Time to for the first time put their content on an external platform, Flipboard.

While the Pew findings are encouraging for news consumption, the revenue findings are less rosy. The study said only 6% of tablet owners had paid for news this year compared to 14% in 2011. The news is slightly better if bundled subscriptions are considered. Here’s a look at how smartphone and tablet owners pay for news (full results of the study here) :

(Image by Maxx-Studio)

  1. Now if we could only get some unbiased, unopinionated news coverage, we may just have something! ;)

  2. Most of the people these days read news through the internet and with these new gadgets available it had been much easier to access news. I am one of those person who always used the iPad for reading news this is why I bought a protective case ( http://www.zoogue.com/ipad_cases )to keep it safe from scratch and accidental bumps.

  3. Greg Golebiewski Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    One of the findings was that the early adapters use their tablets differently than the current, more main-stream, owners do. Thank you for noticing it. It has enormous implications for any digital content strategy.

  4. Aware of any research citing optimal day parts for mobile news viewing?

    1. Thanks for your comments, Greg and Lon. The presentation didn’t say any part of the day was “optimal” but did note people read in different way in the morning (headlines in a hurry) and the evening (in bed with a tablet). Also, the findings not use highest between 5-9pm: http://bit.ly/WdBCrS

      Greg, yes, I should have noted the different consumption patterns of early adapters: “It does appear that compared with a year ago, the current, broader population of tablet news consumers may be reading long-form less often than the earliest adopters, of whom 42% said they did so “regularly.” I think the findings also said that iPad users are more likely to read and pay for news than users of newer, cheaper tablets.

      1. Thanks Jeff. This is the point, especially for those publishers who, based on the earlier studies, concluded that tablet owners are or should be their main focus for news consumption as well as monetization. It can be a short term strategy.

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