October 25, 2011

The Tablet Revolution

News is Valued but Willingness to Pay is Low

Does all that-enjoyment of the tablet news experience coupled with ease of use and access-translate into people actually valuing news on tablets more than they did when they were using other mediums? Here respondents demonstrated much more caution. Only about half as many as said the news was more enjoyable or easier to learn from on the tablet also said news on these devices was worth more to them (16% of all tablet news users). That was still three times the number that said it was worth less (5%). Instead, the vast majority, 78%, said the tablet had not changed the value of the news-that the news was worth "about the same amount." That result may not strike some as promising when majorities still pay nothing for the online news content – substituting one free medium for another.

One major question about the tablet is whether it might change the attitude of consumers about paying for digital content. The theory, at least in the early phases of the tablet’s introduction, was that the interface of content through applications would be so much richer an experience-due to similar portability to paper, a larger reading screen than smart phone, much improved screen resolution than desktops and added richness of applications than desktops-that people would pay for it.

This survey finds that, at least when it comes to news, the tablet has made some difference, but the majority is still far from being willing to pay, even among this first generation of tablet users who are heavy news consumers.

When asked specifically about paying for news on their tablets, 14% said they have done so, while 85% have not. While the number who has paid for content, whether through apps or some other means, is small, it is nearly three times the figure (5%) of the online news consumers that told us in a 2011 survey that they had paid for some form of online local news.[1] And a year earlier, in 2010, just 7% of online news consumers said they would be willing to pay for news of any kind online.[2] In addition, 23% of these tablet news consumers have access to digital content through a print subscription of some kind.

The survey then pressed those tablet users who have not paid directly for news with a hypothetical: Would they be willing to pay if that were only way they would be able to access that information. Half were asked about paying $5 and half about paying $10-the same question we asked of local news users earlier in 2011. The willingness here was nearly identical to that expressed earlier about local news. In this survey of tablet users, 21% said they would be willing to pay $5 and half as many, 10%, said they would pay $10 dollars per month for their favorite source on their tablet if it were the only way to access this content. In that earlier 2011 survey, 18% responded that they would pay $5 and 14% would pay $10 when asked about content from their favorite local news source.

Again, price made a difference. Half of the respondents were asked if they would pay $5 and half asked if they would pay $10. Those asked to pay $5 were more than twice as likely to say they would be willing to do so as those asked to pay $10 (21% for $5 and 10% for $10).

[1] "Mobil News and Paying Online, 2011 State of the News Media Report, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, March 2011, http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/mobile-survey/.

[2] "Understanding the Participatory News Consumer," Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, March 1, 2010, http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/understanding_participatory_news_consumer.