June 18, 2012

Online Publishers Association
New research published today answers some key questions about what kinds of content tablet users consume, and what they’re willing to buy.

The survey, funded by the Online Publishers Association, finds that 61 percent of tablet users have purchased some form of digital content.

What kinds of media are they buying? Some magazines (39 percent) and e-books (35 percent), fewer newspapers (15 percent).

Furthermore, when you look at what kinds of content tablet users pay for, magazines and entertainment win out over newspapers and news.

So, tablet users are fairly willing to pay publishers for content that is entertaining and highly visual (magazines, books and movies), less so for straight news and newspaper content.

There is little consensus about whether digital content should be sold on its own or bundled with other offline content, such as a print subscription. Some readers surveyed like that approach; some don’t. This suggests it’s best to keep providing multiple purchase options for the near future.

The survey asked a subset of tablet users who have paid for a digital newspaper or magazine subscription which content-delivery method they preferred. More preferred to get it via mobile-optimized websites than apps.

That result is remarkable, contradicting conventional wisdom that distributing native apps through app stores is the best way to get consumers to purchase content.

Of course, what people say often does not match what they do. It’s possible that while readers say they want subscription content on the mobile Web, they remain more likely to actually pay for it in an app form.

What content are tablet users consuming?

Paid or not, content consumption is one of the favored uses of tablets, the study finds.

Video comes out on top as the most-common type of content viewed on tablets. Local news (for 41 percent of users) and national news (37 percent) are regular reading subjects:

The study also breaks down the specific types of video content watched regularly:

The study estimates that 31 percent of Internet-using Americans now use tablets, up from 12 percent in last year’s survey. It predicts 47 percent will use tablets by 2013, based on the number of respondents who said they plan to purchase in the next 12 months.

The results are drawn from an online survey of 2,540 U.S. Internet users ages 8 to 64, weighted by age and gender to match the U.S. population as a whole.

Related: Poynter EyeTracking research to determine how people use tablets (Poynter) | The Economist’s digital strategy for tablets (The Economist) | New iPad magazines show the unstoppable march to digital content (New York Times).
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Jeff Sonderman (jsonderman@poynter.org) 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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