News Column

Half of US Adults Own Tablet or Smartphone

Oct. 2, 2012

Louis Llovio


Half of all adult Americans now own either a tablet computer or a smartphone, and one-third use their mobile devices to view news stories and video clips at least once a week.

That's according to a survey by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which polled more than 9,500 adults from late June to early August.

Terry Taylor, creative director of Big River Advertising in Richmond, said these developments present an opportunity for media companies.

"If I were in the media business, I'd be stoked by this report. It represents a more dynamic way to deliver media," he said.

"Things will always change. Change means opportunity. The technology is flipping every few months. I think right now, the big opportunity is to find ways for mobile and traditional to work more in tandem to deliver not just news but a more visceral experience of the news."

The findings have "major implications for how news will be consumed and paid for," says Pew. About 20 percent of the mobile news users surveyed said they paid for an online subscription in the past year.

Devices based on Google Inc.'s Android platform are gaining momentum. Pew found that just over half of tablet owners reported owning Apple's iPad, compared with 81 percent a year ago. Forty-eight percent now own an Android-based device, including Inc.'s Kindle Fire.

But mobile viewing doesn't necessarily mean that people are cutting back on viewing news on personal computers or in newspapers. About half of the tablet news users whom Pew surveyed say their tablets spur them to spend more time consuming news, and about one-third say they get news from sources they didn't use before. Nearly one-third of the mobile users also have print-only subscriptions, and most have no plans to give them up.

"The good news is news organizations should benefit from more readers -- on mobile devices," Taylor said. "The bad news is they are going to have to rethink how that news gets delivered."

Dean Jarrett, senior vice president of communications for Richmond-based The Martin Agency, said the way people access news will not change the relationship between those making news and those reporting it.

News stories reported and vetted by professional journalists carry a certain amount of weight, he said.

As the head of the advertising agency's public relations department, Jarrett said there are more news sources than ever and that the value of legitimate news sources are more important than ever.

Source: (c)2012 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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