Survey: U.S. Tablet News Junkies Prefer Web To Apps, Few Have Paid

Tablet owners read a lot of news, in part because the early-adopter crowd that has embraced tablets are the type of people who like to be informed, according to a new study from Pew Research on tablets and journalism. However, unlike the app revolution that swarmed the smartphone market, tablets are being used a little differently when it comes to consuming news.

The Pew study was conducted in conjunction with The Economist Group and found that half of tablet users use their devices to consume the news on a daily basis, which makes it one of the more popular activities one can do with a tablet. According to the report, 30 percent are spending more time with the news than before they had a tablet, and one-third are seeking out new news organizations on their tablets they didn’t frequent on their computers or televisions.

That probably all sounds pretty good to a news industry that is looking for any semblance of a spark from the rise of tablets as an alternative to print. But unfortunately for those who have invested heavily in applications as their news-delivery strategy on tablets, 40 percent of those who read news on their tablets at least once a week are getting that news through their browser. An additional 31 percent say they use a combination of the browser and apps, while just 21 percent said they primarily use apps to get their news.

Even though the modern tablet has been around over a year and a half since Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) launched the original iPad, we’re still evaluating how people will wind up using these devices as compared to smartphones, where usage habits are more understood. Panelists at our paidContent Advertising conference in September suggested that tablets are being viewed very differently by advertisers, who see lots of people using the Web on their tablets and the the chance afforded by the larger screen real estate on a tablet to create more compelling ads.

Additional evidence of a Web-focused tablet audience is sure to delight those folks. It also suggests that the HTML5-heavy redesign of the Boston Globe’s Web site might sit well with those tablet users.

However, there have certainly been some high-profile tablet publishing strategies geared around applications, such as News Corp.’s Daily. And Apple’s iOS 5 has a new feature called Newsstand that collects subscription apps within a single folder, although some publishers are reporting a lot of success from that approach.

Either way, there is still the overall problem: only 14 percent of tablet users surveyed have paid for news on their tablets. Companies that combine app or online subscriptions with print subscriptions have been able to attract another 23 percent of tablet users to their products, but there is obviously a long way to go.

Pew Research surveyed 1,159 tablet users, 894 of whom identified themselves as tablet news users. The study was conducted entirely in the U.S.