Yesterday the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) released its Future of Mobile News report. The findings are based on a survey of just over 9,500 US adults this past summer. The purpose of the study was to investigate mobile news reading and consumption habits on tablets and smartphones.
Accordingly Pew has found that reading news is one of the most popular activities among tablet and smartphone owners, more popular than accessing social networks in some cases.
According to Pew, 22 percent of US adults have a tablet, with more planning to buy one in the next six months. As previously reported, more than 50 percent of US adults own either a tablet or smartphone. And 66 percent of the combined audience consumes news on a mobile device.
Among tablet owners, Pew found that Android and Kindle Fire tablets have substantially gained share since last year when the iPad dominated. These numbers are likely not an entirely accurate reflection of the distribution of tablets in the US — given traffic and usage numbers that have been previously reported. However among Android tablets Kindle Fire represents nearly half of those in the market.
Overall news consumption on mobile devices is up and many mobile news consumers are among the most engaged readers. However there are some challenging trends that the report identifies for the news industry.
In contrast to larger mobile market trends toward apps, a majority of mobile news consumers get their news from the mobile web: “60 percent of tablet news users mainly use the browser to get news on their tablet, just 23 percent get news mostly through apps and 16 percent use both equally.”
App users are more inclined to pay for digital subscriptions. Indeed, large numbers of people are still resistant to paying for digital news. According to Pew, only “19 percent of mobile news users have some kind of digital news subscription: 14 percent bundled with print and 9 percent digital only, with some overlap of those who have both.”
The story of advertising on mobile news sites or in apps is a half-empty or half-full one. It can either be seen as positive or disappointing depending on your perpective. Most digital marketers would be encouraged generally. About half of mobile news users “notice ads” and CTRs are quite high by comparison to online. But beyond this users “rarely act” on these ads, in terms of e-commerce transactions.
In addition most respondents in the Pew survey don’t like ads regardless of the particular medium or “platform.” In contrast to several other mobile user surveys (mostly notably by the IAB) fewer people are receptive to ads on tablets and smartphones vs. other channels.
There are both encouraging and discouraging aspects to the report. However it’s clear that smartphones and tablets are the future of digital news and news more generally. Thus news publishers are compelled to figure out how to make digital subscriptions and mobile advertising work on these devices.