Monday, June 3, 2013

Goin' Mobile - For News

Sales and diffusion of mobile devices, particularly tablets, are continuing its fast pace.  The good news for journalism is that people are also increasingly using them for accessing news.

A survey by the University of Missouri's Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI), in connection with the Digital Publishing Alliance (DPA), conducted early this year found that roughly one-third of U.S. adults have and use a larger media tablet.  The rapid growth was fueled by the introduction of major new tablet models from Samsung, Google, and Microsoft, Apple's move into smaller media tablets, and new larger-screen smartphone models that may provide competitive alternatives for smaller tablets.

The good news for journalism and news media is that most mobile device owners report using their devices to access news. For most age groups (and both smartphone and large tablet users), roughly two-thirds of the sample reported using their devices for news.  Among smartphone news users, a majority report still using web and search portals to get news, but the acquisition and use of specific news apps is rapidly growing.  The survey reported that more smartphone owners had downloaded apps from newspapers than any of the other traditional media - although almost as many had "niche" apps (those affiliated with special events or narrow topics such as weather).  The survey found that for smartphones, only a third of the oldest respondents (65+) used their devices for news.  Interestingly, men were much more likely to use smartphones for news than were women (across all age groups).

In contrast, media tablet owners seem to prefer sites and sources that allow them to take advantage of their larger screens.  While have had downloaded newspaper apps, a whopping 94% had television (video) news apps on their devices.  Looking at the demographics of large tablet news yielded some interesting highlights.  For tablet owners, usage of tablets for news was lowest among the youngest group included in the sample, at 42%. News use for tablet owners in the 25-64 age group (66%-70%) mirrored the rates for smartphone owners, although the older 65+ group was slightly less likely to do so (60%), while less than half of tablet users in the 18-24 age group reported using their devices for news.  There's also an interesting interaction between age and gender - among the youngest and oldest groups, women were more likely to report using tablets for news (than men), while for those between the ages of 25 and 54, men were more likely to be news users on their tablets.  Tablet owners also expressed a small preference for using news apps rather than browsers for their news content.

It's looking like mobile is becoming a significant market for news access by audiences - although in many ways one that is still under development.  As news organizations face increasing competition and declining usage in their traditional markets, this seems to be one that news organizations should take seriously - in reaching out to new audiences, and in the opportunities mobile presents for new ways to package and distribute news and information.

Source -  2013 Q1 Research Report 2: Media tablets now used by at least one-third of U.S. adults,
RJI-DPA Mobile Media Research Project release

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