News popular on tablets - paying for it, not so much

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Tablet owners spend more time reading the news than they do on Facebook - but they're not prepared to pay for that news, a survey shows.

A new study by Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism implies that paywalls may not be the right strategy for news organizations. While more than half of users said they accessed news daily on their devices, only 14 percent said they'd paid directly for content.

Just one in five said they'd be prepared to spend even $5 per month if that were the only way to access their favorite news source.

And those that do access news on their devices tend to do so through their browser, rather than through special apps. Around 40 percent mainly use their browser, compared with just 21 percent who say their news comes mainly via an app.

"There may be reason for news organizations to continue to develop and promote their news apps, however," say the report's authors.

"Those tablet news users who primarily use apps for news are the most avid consumers of news on tablets. They consume news more heavily, and in more different ways. They also report higher levels of enjoyment and learning from their news experience."

The report identifies what the researchers call a type of 'power news consumer' amongst those who rely mainly on apps for their news. Around half this group say they now spend more time reading the news than they did before they got their tablet - in contrast, fewer than one in five of those who use a browser say the same.

Generally, consuming news is one of the most popular activities on a tablet - about the same as sending and receiving email, and way ahead of social networking, gaming or reading books. Indeed, the only activity that's more popular is general web browsing.

"One reason early tablet adopters may have integrated the devices so significantly into their daily lives is tied to the demographic profile of the tablet-owning population," say the report's authors.

"In general, they are middle-aged, higher-income working individuals who follow the news more closely and more frequently than the population overall."