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Study Finds Half of U.S. Adults Have Mobile Internet

WASHINGTON–The percentage of Americans who have mobile Internet access has risen dramatically in the last year, changing how people get news, according to a survey of news use on mobile devices conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in collaboration with The Economist Group.

The study is based on a survey conducted from June 29 to Aug. 8 among 9,513 adults including 4,638 mobile device owners, updating trends from a study conducted a year ago.

Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of adults now own some kind of tablet computer, double the number a year ago, and smartphone ownership is up to 44 percent. Today, 50 percent of Americans now have mobile Internet access through either a tablet or a smartphone.

Fully 64 percent of tablets owners and 62 percent of smartphone owners say they use the devices for news at least weekly. Also, 73 percent of adults who consume news on their tablet read in-depth articles at least sometimes, including 19 percent who do so daily.

“The evidence is also mounting that mobile devices are adding to, rather than replacing, how much news people consume,” said PEJ Deputy Director Amy Mitchell. In all, 43 percent of users say their tablets are adding to the amount of time they spend with the news and 31 percent say they are getting news from new sources.

However, most are not yet taking advantage of all the aspects of the technology; people use their tablets and smartphones for news at home, usually just once a day, primarily.

Nearly a fifth of mobile news consumers have paid for a digital subscription of some kind in the last year, but 31 percent report having a print-only subscription. Just 24 percent of those with print subscriptions are considering a digital-only one.

“With more people than ever before using these devices, this clearly represents an incredible opportunity for publishers across the country,” Paul Rossi, managing director and executive vice president of The Economist Group for the Americas, said.

Other findings:

– Just over half of tablet owners report owning an iPad, compared with 81 percent a year ago. Fully 48 percent now own an Android-based device, including 21percent who own a Kindle Fire.

– The introduction of new devices and formats is creating a “multi-platform” news consumer. More than half of tablet news users also get news on a smartphone; 77 percent also get news on a desktop/laptop and 50 percent get news in print. A quarter get news on all four platforms.

– People who get news on their devices multiple times per day tend to turn to more sources, get news from new sources, read in-depth news articles, watch news videos and send and receive news through email or social networks. Tablet owners who get news more than one time during the day are also twice as likely to have paid for news on their tablet.

– There has also been movement toward using the browser. Fully 60 percent of tablet news users mainly use the browser, just 23 percent get news mostly through apps and 16 percent use both equally. But most app news users (and those who use both apps and the browser equally) remain more engaged. The browser is also preferred on the smartphone.

– Two distinct news audiences have emerged on tablets: new-found digital customers and those who originally turned to that outlet in print form. These print subscribers also prefer their app-based news to be more like traditional reading.

– Half of mobile news users sometimes or often notice ads when they are getting news. Roughly 15 percent click on ads when getting news and about 7 percent make purchases.