How Mobile and Social Media Drive News Consumption

It’s clear that in 2011, the digital revolution entered a new era as the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism points out in their annual State of the News Media 2012:

The age of mobile, in which people are connected to the web wherever they are, arrived in earnest. More than four in ten American adults now own a smartphone. One in five owns a tablet. New cars are manufactured with internet built in. With more mobility comes deeper immersion into social networking.

For news, the new era brings mixed blessings.

New research released in this report finds that mobile devices are adding to people’s news consumption, strengthening the lure of traditional news brands and providing a boost to long-form journalism. Eight in ten who get news on smartphones or tablets, for instance, get news on conventional computers as well. People are taking advantage, in other words, of having easier access to news throughout the day – in their pocket, on their desks and in their laps.

At the same time, a more fundamental challenge that we identified in this report last year has intensified — the extent to which technology intermediaries now control the future of news.

This year’s study contains surveys examining how news consumers use social media and how mobile devices could change the news business and an update on the rapid changes in community news.

Digital Revolution for News on Social Media

The Role of Mobile Devices & Social Media in News Consumption

In early 2012, the digital revolution entered a new era. The age of mobile, in which people are connected to the web wherever they are, arrived in earnest. A new survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults conducted in January 2012 by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that people are taking advantage of having access to news in their pockets, on their laps and at their desks: mobile devices appear to be adding to the news experience. Eight in ten who get news on smartphones or tablets, for instance, get news on conventional computers as well.

Mobile Device Ownership

Much of the growing mobile ownership is occurring among computer owners who are adding mobile devices to their digital collection. About half (52%) of desktop/laptops owners now also own a smartphone and roughly a quarter (23%) owns a tablet computer. Tablet ownership alone has increased by more than 50% since summer 2011.

  • 23% of U.S. adults get their news on at least two digital devices.
  • 77% of U.S. adults own a desktop/laptop computer.
  • 44% of U.S. adults own a smartphone.
  • 18% of U.S. adults own a tablet.

Digital Devices & the News

Getting news is a popular activity on these devices. Further research finds people use mobile devices for news more often and for longer sessions – while still getting news in other ways.

Devices Used For News

  • 70% of device owners get their news from a desktop/laptop
  • 51% of device owners get their news from a smartphone
  • 56% of device owners get their news from a tablet

No Single Place For News

  • 34% of desktop/laptop users also get their news on a smartphone
  • 27% of smartphone users also get news on a tablet
  • 17% of desktop/laptop users also get news on a tablet
  • 5% of U.S. adults get news on all three devices

Who are Mobile News Users?

A 2011 survey conducted by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in collaboration with The Economist Group found early tablet news users to be more middle-aged, higher earners and more highly educated than the population overall. That has largely remained unchanged with the introduction of lower-priced tablet options.

The Path to News

One pressing question facing the industry is how people find and access news stories. The survey reveals going to the news organization directly is a primary method on every device, with a particular appeal on the tablet computer.

The Role of Facebook and Twitter

Americans are far more likely to get digital news by going directly to a news organization’s website or app than by following social media links. Just 9% of digital news consumers follow Facebook or Twitter news links very often on at least one device. Even so, social media are an increasingly important part of the news process. The two biggest newtworks, Facebook and Twitter, have each established roles distinct from the other.

How Mobile and Social Media Drive News Consumption
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