Most tablet users won't pay for news content

Pew study finds that that about one-third of tablet users today pay directly or indirectly to access news sites

A large majority of tablet computer users still want to read news content for free, according to the results of a survey done by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and The Economist Group.

The Pew study, released today, combines the results of three polls of 1,159 tablet users taken over the summer and early fall. The study sponsors said 894 of the respondents consumed news on their tablets at least weekly.

Only about a third of the the respondents have paid either directly or indirectly for news content, Pew said.

The survey found that just 14% of tablet news users had paid directly for news content on their tablets, while another 23% had a subscription to a print newspaper or magazine that offered digital access. Together, those two groups total 37%, but the margin of error in the combined polls is 5.5%.

"A large majority of those who have not paid directly for news on their tablet remain reluctant to do so, even if that was the only way to get news from their favorite sources," the study said.

While a large majority won't pay to access news sites today, Pew said the percentage who have paid directly or indirectly for news content, is a "much higher number than previous research has found."

The study found that consuming news on tablets, including the latest headlines or in-depth articles and commentary, is the second most popular activity after general Web browsing.

Just over half (53%) of the respondents said they get news on their tablet every day, statistically the same as those who send and receive email daily on their device (54%). Browsing the Web generally every day was the highest use at 67%.

About 30% of tablet news users said they spend more time getting news than they did before they had a tablet, according to Pew.

Overall, the study found that 18 months after the introduction of the iPad, 11% of American adults have a tablet computer of some kind.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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