Tablets, Smartphones Increasingly Used for Mobile News: Pew

The way consumers access their news on mobile devices changes depending on age, gender and income, but some habits appear uniform overall.

Tablet and smartphone users are accessing mobile news sites from their devices frequently, but there are intriguing differences as to what demographics consume the information and how, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

One divide in tablet use occurs between those who prefer more of a print-like experience and consumers who prefer higher-tech features. According to the survey, mobile news consumers overall tilt toward a more print-like experience, but not heavily, with 58 percent preferring a more print-like experience versus 41 percent preferring a higher tech experience.

The survey indicated that preference toward print are similar across age, gender and other groups, with those under 40 preferring the print-like experience to the same degree as those 40 and over. Overall, news consumption ranks high on mobile devices, with more than a third getting news daily on a tablet or smartphone, putting it on par with other activities such as email and playing games on tablets and behind only email on smartphones. The popularity of news was strong across all demographic groups studied, but especially prevalent among men and the college educated. On the smartphone, differences also emerged in age and income.

"A majority of consumers across the various demographic groups check news headlines regularly on their devices, but other consumption habits vary. Age, often in combination with gender, plays a substantial role. But in many cases 30- to 49-year-olds are in sync with those under 30," the report noted. "The split, then, appears between those under 50 and those 50 and older. On the tablet, male news users under 50 are more likely than female news users under 50 (and both genders over 50) to check news more than once a day."

Nearly half of male tablet news users under 50 (48 percent) get news on their tablet multiple times during the day versus just 33 percent of women under 50 and 31 percent of men and women 50 and over. The report found 43 percent of male tablet owners consume news daily on their device versus 32 percent of female tablet owners. The gap is nearly identical on smartphones (41 percent among men compared with 30 percent among women).

One area where younger users distinguish themselves involves advertising in the tablet news space. A quarter of 18-to 29-year-old tablet news users touch or click on ads when getting news, versus 12 percent of 30- to 49-year-old tablet news users and 7 percent of 50- to 64-year-old users. However, the survey indicated mobile news users 50 and over are more likely to have paid for some kind of news subscription.

“Another major shift in the mobile market over the last year has been the shrinking of Apple's dominance, particularly in the tablet realm. In the late summer of 2011 Apple commanded as much as 81 percent of the tablet space, according to our data,” the report noted. “A little over a year later, that has fallen to about half, as a wider range of Android devices have entered the market. Our survey data also revealed though that iPad owners are more engaged mobile news users, including being more engaged with news.”