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PEJ: Tablet Ownership Doubles, Percentage of News Users Decline

Study Shows 64% of Tablet Owners Use it to Access News Weekly 10/01/2012 9:59 AM Eastern
Almost 22% of adults own a tablet computer, double the 11% who had a tablet a year ago, and 64% of tablet owners say they use the device to access news at least weekly, according to a new study from Project for Excellence in Journalism and The Economist Group.

Smartphone ownership was 44%, up from 35% from a year ago, with 62% saying they use it for accessing news.

But for tablets, the percentage of news that consumers access weekly is actually down from last year, when 77% of tablet users said they accessed news. The study suggests that may be because of the rise in Android owners. Only 29% of those users get news daily compared with 43% of iPad owners (in 2011, 81% of the tablets owned were iPad and only 15% Android). In 2012, Apple had only the slightest of leads (52%-48%), a statistical dead heat.

Some of this decline may be tied to lower daily news consumption among Android tablet owners, the data indicates. Only 29% of Android owners get news daily compared with 43% of iPad owners.

News is second to email (65%) among top tablet uses, and just ahead of playing games (60%), but since the margin of error is over 5 percentage points, it is essentially a dead heat.

"Even with the broadening population and wide range of competing activities, mobile owners are drawn to news on their tablet and smartphones," PEJ deputy director Amy Mitchell said of the study's release. "The evidence is also mounting that mobile devices are adding to, rather than replacing, how much news people consume."

But tablets are not yet threatening traditional screens or being used as mobile news divides. The study found that most people only use them once a day for news, and most from their homes.

There is still some good news for traditional media. While almost a fifth -- 19% -- say they have paid for a digital subscription, far more (31%) have a print-only subscription, and only about a quarter of those -- 24% -- are considering giving them up for digital-only.

The study found that rather than replacing old technologies, tablets and other devices are creating multiplatform news consumers. Over half (54%) of tablet users also get news on their smartphone, and 77% also get news on a desktop or laptop, while half (50%) get news from print as well.

The good news for advertisers is that about half tablet (49%) and smartphone (50%) users notice ads when they are getting their news. The bad news is that only about 15% click on them and 7% buy something.

The study is based on a random survey June 29-Aug. 8 among 9,513 adults. It was conducted by Knowledge Networks of households in their "nationally representative" online panel.

The margin of error is 5.4 percentage points for tablet news users and 4.7 for smartphone news users.

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