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A substantial percentage of smartphone and tablet users consumed news on their devices in Q1 2013, according to polling by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. The 35-to-44 age group showed the highest incidence of reading news on their smartphones, at 73% of users. But penetration rates for every other adult age group except those 65 and older were above 60%. Among the oldest smartphone users, the small screen size seemed to turn them off to news consumption; only 35% read the news on their phone.
Among tablet users, the figures were similar, with the percentage between 25 to 64 years old reading news on the devices hovering around 67%. Interestingly, those 65 and over were much more likely to read on the tablet compared with the smartphone, at 59%; bigger font seems to translate to older readership.
All this mobile news reading is likely having an impact on print news subscriptions. Although the percentage of print subscribers fell just 2.2 percentage points between Q1 2012 and Q2 2013, to 31.1%, the drop was especially pronounced among those age groups that showed a high incidence of reading on their mobile devices. The biggest dip was for the 45-to-54 age group; 34.4% had a subscription in 2012 vs. 28.0% in 2013.
Localytics, a mobile app company, looked at growth of the mobile news audience between July 2012 and 2013 and found that the average number of logins to news apps per user rose by 39% year over year, while time spent in news apps decreased by 26%. The study also confirmed the strong inclination of tablet users toward news reading. Time spent accessing news on tablets was 50 times higher than on mobile phones.
Overall, the findings from the Donald J. Reynolds Journalism Institute showed that newspaper subscribers were less likely than consumers in general to read news on their mobile devices, but still more than half (52.1%) did so in Q1 2013. And that was nearly 15 percentage points higher than the number of print subscribers who read news on mobile a year earlier.
Given that 12.7% of print news subscribers said they would cancel their subscription in the next year, there’s a good chance that mobile digital access may be supplanting those at-home deliveries.
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