October 25, 2011

The Tablet Revolution

Apps vs. Browsers

The question of whether people will pay for news on tablets is closely related to another issue-whether they use "apps" as a way to interact with news or whether they access that content through a browser, the way they do on a laptop or desktop computer.

If people are using a browser, then the content interface has not changed as much from when they use another kind of computer, and the possibility of charging for content is more challenging.

But contrary to many expectations, news apps have not become the primary interface for news on tablets. Or at least, most users have found apps good for certain things and the browser more suited for others. Even among these early adopters who have demonstrated an early affinity for the technology and heavier are news consumers, more than a third, 36%, have no news apps at all, and even some that do have news apps don’t use them as their primary means of getting news.

Fully 40% of tablet news users rely primarily on their browser for news. A little less than a third, 31%, say they use both their browser and apps equally, while just 21% rely mainly on apps.

There is some evidence that the nature of the content makes a difference in whether apps or browsers are preferred, but perhaps not in the way some might expect. The web-based survey of 300 tablet news users revealed an even split in how people just checked headlines: 31% who had used their tablet to check headlines in the last week said they mainly used apps, 39% mainly a browser, and 30% used both equally. Yet people were less prone to use apps for more in-depth content. Indeed, the contrary was true. Of those who had read longer articles over the preceding seven days, somewhat more (42%) mainly went through a browser than mostly used apps (31%) and 27% used both equally.