Study: Most tablet users not willing to pay for news

The rapid growth of tablets like the iPad is helping to increase news consumption, but so far the devices don’t appear to be the panacea for the news industry’s woes that many had hoped. While three out of every 10 tablet users consume more news daily,  a majority say they are not willing to pay for news content on the devices, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in collaboration with The Economist Group. Still, 21% say they would be willing to spend $5 per month if that were the only way to access their favorite source on the tablet.

 Among the major findings:

  • The revenue potential for news on the tablet may be limited. At this point just 14% of tablet news users have paid directly to access news on their tablet. Another 23% get digital access of some kind through a print newspaper or magazine subscription. Still, cost is a factor, even among this heavy news consuming population. Of those who haven’t paid directly, just 21% say they would be willing to spend $5 per month if that were the only way to access their favorite source on the tablet. And of those who have news apps, fully 83% say that being free or low cost was a major factor in their decision about what to download.
  • Brand is important on the tablet. Whether an app comes from “a news organization I like” is as prevalent a factor in the decision to download an app as is low cost. Liking the news organization is a major factor for 84% of those who have apps. In addition, among both app and browser respondents surveyed about their behavior over the last seven days, the most common way by far to get news headlines was by going directly to a news organization’s content. Fully 90% of app users went directly to the app of a specific news organization, compared with 36% that went to some sort of aggregator app like Pulse. And, 81% of those who went through their browser accessed news headlines via a direct news website, compared with 68% who went through a search engine and about a third (35%) that went through a social network.
  • Those who rely mainly on apps for news, 21% of all tablet news users, represent a kind of power news consumer. Close to half of this group say they now spend more time getting news than they did before they had their tablet (43%). That is more than twice the rate of those who mainly go through a browser (19%). App users are also more than three times as likely as browser news users to regularly get news from new sources they did not turn to before they had their tablet (58% versus 16% for browser users).
  • Substitution is already occurring to large degrees. Fully 90% of tablet news users now consume news on the tablet that they used to get access in other ways. The greatest substitution is occurring with news that people used to get from their desktop computer. Eight-in-ten tablet news users say they now get news on their tablet that they used to get online from their laptop or desktop computer. Fewer respondents, although still a majority, say the tablet takes the place of what they used to get from a print newspaper or magazine (59%) or as a substitute for television news (57%).
  • Incidental news reading is prevalent on the tablet. Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) of those who read long articles in the last seven days ended up reading articles they were not initially seeking out. In addition, 41% went back and read past articles or saved articles for future reading.
  • Word of mouth is a key component of tablet news sharing. Fully 85% of those who get news on their tablets said they had talked with someone about a long article they had read there. This is more than twice the percentage who say they had shared articles electronically. Some 41% of tablet news users say they share news through email or social networking at least sometimes.
  • When it comes to ownership, many see the tablet computer as more of a household device to share than as a strictly personal one. Half of those with a tablet share it with other members of the household.