New Study Reveals that a Third of U.S. Adults Receive News from Mobile Devices

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Mobile Landscape Mobile devices have become all but a way of life in the United States. Perhaps most depicting of this trend is the dramatic rise of mobile connectivity, with nearly half of American adults now having access to mobile Internet. According to a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), this new shift is changing how people consume news, and holds major implications for publications looking to finance it.

Both tablets and smartphones have seen a large influx of consumer adaptation over the last year. Nearly a quarter of Americans (22%) now own a tablet, and more adults have adopted smartphones as well, increasing from 39% to 44% over the course of the year. The large influx of new mobile users has played a large part in the increased mobile connectivity of U.S. adults.

The study shows that these adopters remain interested in news, as 64% of tablet owners and 62% of smartphone owners say that they use their devices to read news at least once a week, meaning that a third of U.S. adult population uses mobile devices to read news on weekly basis.

Moreover, these mobile users are not simply skimping headlines, as many of them are reading more detailed articles to fruition. The study revealed that of the adults who read news on their mobile devices 73% of tablet users and 61% of smartphone users read in-depth-articles occasionally, including 19% of tablet users and 11% of smartphone users who do so regularly.  

The study also revealed that the new popularity of mobile devices has not cannibalized user news consumption, but rather augmented it. Rather than replacing old technology consumers have begun using a collection of devices, becoming multi-platform news consumers. Among new smartphone users for example, 47% still get news from print, while 75% get news on a laptop/desktop device and 28% get news on a tablet.

Besides interesting consumer trends, the study also revealed a great deal of information for advertisers. According to the study, mobile readers may prove to be more valuable, as 49% of mobile consumers notice ads while reading the news. An actual response is currently far less common, however, with 15% of consumers clicking on ads and only 7% actually buying something. Still these figures far out pace digital click rates, which rests below 1%.

While there is certainly potential for publications and adverts alike, the mobile market continues to be resistant to paying for mobile content. Currently, more mobile consumers have print subscriptions than mobile ones, and of those who own print subscriptions only 24% of them are considering exchanging for mobile subscriptions. Additionally, these mobile readers prefer reading news via a web browser instead of apps, as 61% of smartphone users said they preferred reading news directly form a web browser.

The PEJ study holds serious implications for news readers and writers both. Readers are becoming more engaged with the news reading not only more often, but gathering information from a far larger pool of sources. Publications are also being given far more access to the consumer, being able to reach them in a multitude of ways and at almost all times thanks to mobile devices. As consumers continue to look to mobile devices for their news, users can expect publications to put more effort into making the experience as fluid as possible. Mobile friendly web design and new intuitive news applications are sure to follow, but don’t be surprised if more subscriptions options also follow suit.

About the Study

The study was based on a survey conducted from June 29 to August 8, 2012. It sampled 9,513 adults, including 4,638 mobile device owners. The mobile device owners were given a survey that looked to illuminate consumer news usage; including which devices readers use to consume news, and how often and deeply they read when consuming news pieces.

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