Tablet Users Want News, But For Free: PEJ Study

Approximately half of daily tablet computer users say they access news on their tablets daily, but the majority would be unwilling to pay to get that news content.

That is according to a new study of tablet use by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) and The Economist Group. Although tablets are less than two years old, 11% of those surveyed said they own one and 77% said they use them every day, spending an average of an hour and a half on them.

According to the study, following news is one of the most popular uses (53% of respondents), statistically the same as sending e-mail (54%) and more popular than social networking (39%), gaming (30%), and reading books (17%).

"For these early adapters, news is already a big part of their tablet experience-often in ways that expand their daily news diet," said Amy Mitchell, deputy director of PEJ. "While the signs about revenue potential are mixed, the tablet clearly offers possibilities for news that did not emerge in other technologies."

The study found that a browser, rather than a news app, was the most popular form of news grazing, even though two-thirds of respondents had a news app on their tablet.

Only 14% said they had paid directly to access news, while another 23% said they had paid indirectly through a print or magazine subscription. But of the 86% who had not paid directly, less than a quarter of (21%) said they would be willing to pay $5 a month even if that were the only way to get their favorite news content.

Of those with a news app, the brand was a big factor in the decision to download, as was the fact that it was either free or cheap.

Forty-three percent of tablet users say they are consuming more news than they did before, and 90% say they are consuming news on a tablet that they used to get in other ways, including from print and TV news.

The study, whose margin of error is plus or minus 5.5 points, is based on a series of five phone surveys of 5,014 adults in the continental U.S. conducted June 30-July 31.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.