While consuming news has become one of the more popular activities for tablet users, access to it is still largely conducted through a browser, not specialized apps, says a new study released by the Pew Research Center and The Economist Group.
Further, generating revenue from news content continues to be a challenge.
The study, called "The Tablet Revolution and What it Means for the Future of News", aims to benchmark tablet usage, particularly in relation to how news content is accessed and consumed.
According to the study, tablet owners are avid news consumers. Fifty-three percent of respondents say they consume news daily on the device-more than social networking (39 percent), gaming (30 percent) and reading books (17 percent). Only sending and receiving email, at 54 percent, edged higher.
However, it appears that while two-thirds of tablet owners have a news app on their device, most are still accessing news content through a Web browser. This is not what content publishers want to hear.
As the study points out, publishers banked on apps as the key mechanism for content delivery and sales. "When it was launched, many observers believed that the tablet might help change the experience of news consumers and the economic ground rules of digital news consumption," says the report. "That belief was based on the sense that people would consume information on tablets largely through special applications or apps that provide content from a favorite news organization like the New York Times or one’s local newspaper."
Forty percent of respondents that read news on their tablets get it via a Web browser. From there, 31 percent use both the browser and a news app, while 21 percent use primarily apps to get their news.
Consequently, the economics around news content are constrained. The study finds that 14 percent of respondents have paid to access news on the device. Twenty-three percent get their digital access through a print subscription bundle. And 21 percent would be willing to pay $5 per month if that was the only way to get news from their favorite source on the tablet.
Of those that have the news apps, 83 percent said being free or low cost were major factors in downloading the apps.
Nevertheless, while desktop computer habits were cited as a potential reason for the continued reliance on browsers for news access, users are beginning to substitute their tablets for other devices when consuming news content.
According to the study, 90 percent of news users consume content on the tablet that they used to get through other devices. Eighty percent say they now get news on their tablets that they used to view on their laptop or desktop computers. And tablets are creeping up on print and television, too. Fifty-nine percent of respondents say the tablet has taken the place of magazines and newspapers for news and 57 percent say the same for television.