Tablets, Smartphones Increasingly Used for News: Pew Research

Consumers are turning to their tablets and smartphones to read up on current events, and are finding new outlets for information along the way. 

Smartphone and tablet owners are increasingly using their mobile devices—be it an Android handset, an iPad or BlackBerry device—to access various news sources, according to a survey of 9,513 adults sponsored by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The survey, conducted by Knowledge Networks, included 2,013 tablet users and 3,945 smartphone users. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of tablet owners and 62 percent of smartphone owners said they use the devices for news at least weekly, according to survey results.

More than four in 10 mobile news consumers say they are getting more news now and nearly a third say they are adding new sources—and they’re going deeper into articles instead of just browsing headlines. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of adults who consume news on their tablet read in-depth articles at least sometimes, including 19 percent who do so daily, while 61 percent of smartphone news consumers at least sometimes read longer stories, 11 percent regularly.

For all the talk about the death of print at the hands of digital media, the survey suggested the proliferation of mobile devices is driving a “multi-platform” style of news consumption. More than half, (54 percent), of tablet news users also get news on a smartphone, while 77 percent get news on a desktop/notebook, half get news in print, and a quarter get news on all four platforms. Among smartphone news users, 47 percent still get news in print, while three-quarters get news on the notebook/desktop device and 28 percent get news on a tablet.

Interestingly, the survey revealed almost a third (31 percent) of respondents said they get news from new sources on their tablet, suggesting an overall broadening of the media field. Tablet news consumers who get news more than one time during the day are also twice as likely as those who get news once a day to have paid for news on their tablet (10 percent versus 4 percent), and the survey found a small but growing number of dual-device mobile news users are also more likely than others to have paid for digital news content.

“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,” the report noted. “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.”

However, despite all of the convenience of mobile, the survey indicated the desktop computer remains an enduring part of people's news consumption, suggest that even as the population of tablet owners broadens, the idea that consumers have entered a post-PC era is overstated-at least when it comes to news.

Fully 41 percent of mobile users who still get news on the laptop and print prefer the conventional computer for doing so, with tablets ranked second at 25 percent, followed by physical print publications. The smartphone ranked last. “This is a shift from the very early adopters surveyed in 2011 who showed strong passion for their new devices, and it may speak to both the broadening population and a natural settling down as the "newness" factor wears off,” the report said.