December 11, 2012

“In the growing realm of mobile news, men and the more highly educated emerge as more engaged news consumers,” says a new report on the demographics of mobile news from the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The report continues:

While they are much lighter news consumers generally and have largely abandoned the print news product, young people get news on mobile devices to similar degrees as older users. And, when getting news through apps, young people say they prefer a print-like experience over one with high-tech or multi-media features.

In fact, most of the people (58 percent) who read news on tablets prefer to see a print-like reading experience, while 41 percent want a more high-tech interactive experience with audio, video and graphics.

Most tablet news readers preferred a print-style experience, such as the one in The Wall Street Journal’s iPad app.

That’s probably the most surprising finding in new survey results from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism and The Economist Group. The survey breaks down mobile news consumption habits demographically — by age, gender and education.

That majority preference for print-style presentation of tablet content was the same for users of all ages and genders.

Below are some other takeaways.

Business model insights

Younger people click on ads; older people are more likely to pay, according to this data.

News readers 18-29 are most likely to touch ads on their tablets, at least sometimes. But even among that age group, only a quarter of them have.

Meanwhile, mobile news readers over 50 are more likely to subscribe to news. Twenty percent of them had a bundled print-and-digital subscription, and 8 percent had a digital-only subscription.

Across all age groups, 19 percent of mobile news users have paid for some form of digital subscription – 14 percent bundled with print and 9 percent digital only.

Sadly, that means large majorities have neither tapped on a mobile ad nor subscribed to digital content.

Gender differences

Men are generally more active with their tablets than women, the study says:

More than 40% of men get news daily on either their smartphone and/or tablet, compared with roughly 30% of women. On the tablet specifically, men check in for news more frequently and are more apt to read in-depth news articles and to watch news videos. Women, on the other hand, are more likely than men to use social networks as a way to get news.

Like the earlier PEJ-Economist report, this one was based on a survey of 9,513 adults in the U.S., 4,638 of them mobile device owners. The research was conducted from June-August 2012.

Browser vs. apps

This survey’s findings are consistent with earlier research — greater numbers of mobile users rely on their browsers for news consumption. But the people who read more and pay more prefer apps.

Roughly 60% of tablet news users and smartphone news users mostly use the browser for news while about a quarter mostly use apps (the rest use a mix). But, the survey also found that app users tend to be more active mobile news consumers, carrying special appeal for news organizations.

iPad vs. Android

Android-powered tablets, including the Kindle Fire, have been gaining market share on the once-dominant iPad.

But the study finds iPad users are more engaged with news than Android tablet users. iPad users are also more likely to be college educated and tend to have higher incomes than Android users, making them a more attractive market for premium content.

Earlier research from the Reynolds Journalism Institute also found iPad owners far more likely to use them for keeping up with the news.

Related: After email, getting news is the most popular activity on smartphones, tablets | New Poynter Eyetrack research reveals how people read news on tablets

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Jeff Sonderman ( is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

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