U.S. Tablet Users Slow To Adopt Newspaper Subscriptions
Eleven percent of all U.S. adults over the age of 18 already own a tablet, according to a series of surveys conducted last summer by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with The Economist Group.
Some 53 percent of U.S. tablet owners said they were using their tablets to access online news, for about 90 minutes per day on average.
The new study from Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that 42 percent of U.S. tablet users were regularly reading in-depth news articles and analyses on their screens, and 67 percent were more likely to use a tablet than a desktop PC to browse the Web on a daily basis.
Still, only 14 percent of U.S. tablet owners told Pew they had "paid directly for news content on their tablets," the non-profit organization's researchers said.
"Another 23 percent, though, have a subscription to a print newspaper or magazine that they say includes digital access," Pew's researchers added.
Apple's Wi-Fi/3G Mix
Some U.S. tablet owners may be reluctant to pay for digital newspaper and magazine subscriptions because of the wealth of free content that is available elsewhere online. For others, however, their disinclination may be a consequence of their initial decision to purchase a lower-cost Wi-Fi-only model.
"Digital newspapers require ongoing connectivity to refresh content," Gartner Vice President Al Weiner advised the firm's commercial clients last year. "Given the fact that Wi-Fi coverage is not persistent, 3G access is needed to fully enable newspaper experiences," he wrote in a blog.
The lower initial cost of Apple's Wi-Fi only iPads was likely one thing that attracted a number of price-conscious consumers. The higher-priced 3G versions of the iPad 2 also require users to acquire a 3G wireless data plan -- which means paying an additional monthly fee.
Gartner projects that Apple's iPad models will collectively account for 73.4 percent of global media tablet sales this year. In the wake of the launch of Apple's iPad 2 last March, Piper Jaffray conducted a survey that found 53 percent of iPad 2 buyers had purchased a Wi-Fi only model.
"The original iPad launch had separate Wi-Fi only and 3G launches, so we don't have comparable data," said Piper Jaffray analyst Andrew Murphy in an e-mail Tuesday.
"I would also add that we think that has trended slightly towards 3G as the product has matured," Murphy said. "In other words, my guess is that currently it's more like 55 percent 3G and 45 percent Wi-Fi only."
Another potential barrier to the adoption of digital subscriptions by U.S. tablet owners is screen size. Amazon, Dell, Samsung and other tablet vendors offer models featuring a 7-inch screen, which is less than ideal when viewing newspapers and magazines in a digital format.
With respect to the 7-inch Kindle Fire, however, "Amazon might offer some ways to render such content better than the Nook Color," Weiner wrote in a recent blog. Moreover, Amazon's strategy for digital newspapers and magazines may eventually blossom once the online retailer eventually releases a 10-inch tablet.
"Amazon will not have to make a big effort to be more newspaper and magazine friendly than Apple has, regarding in-app purchases and sharing consumer data," Weiner said.