December 11, 2012

The Demographics of Mobile News

Press Release

For more information, contact: Amy Mitchell, Acting Director, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, 202-419-3650 or Amy Jaick, The Economist Group Communications Manager at 212-641-9834

In Mobile News, Younger Users Largely Keep Pace with Older Age Groups; Men, College Educated are The Most Engaged News Consumers

December 11, 2012–In the growing realm of mobile news, men and the more highly educated emerge as more engaged news consumers, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, conducted in collaboration with The Economist Group. These findings parallel, for the most part, demographic patterns of general news consumption.

But there are some important areas of difference between mobile and general news habits-particularly among young people.  While they are much lighter news consumers generally, young people get news on mobile devices to similar degrees as older users. And, while they have largely abandoned the print news product, young people say that when getting news through mobile apps, they prefer a print-like experience over one with high-tech or multi-media features.

These are some of the findings of an analysis of mobile news habits across a variety of demographic groups, based on a survey of 9,513 U.S. adults conducted from June-August 2012 (including 4,638 mobile device owners). Among other key findings:

  • Younger tablet users are more likely to engage with advertising. Among tablet news consumers, younger users touch or click on ads when getting news far more than older users – fully 25% of the 18 29-year-old tablet news users at least sometimes do this, compared with 12% of 30 to-49-year-old tablet news consumers and just 7% of 50 to-64-year-olds.
  • Men – especially young men – are heavier mobile news consumers than women. Fully 43% of male tablet owners consume news daily on their device versus 32% of female tablet owners. The gap is nearly identical on smartphones (41% compared with 30% among women). On the tablet specifically, men check in for news more frequently and are more likely to read in-depth news articles and to watch news videos.
  • The level of education is also tied to mobile news choices. Those with college educations are more likely to access news through mobile apps and to read in-depth articles on tablet devices. Fully 82% of the college-educated tablet news users read in-depth news articles there compared with 66% of those with lower education levels. At the same time, nearly half (49%) of those with lower education levels say tablets are adding to their overall news consumption rather than just replacing news they used to get in other ways. That compares with 36% of college graduates who say this.

“The study provides a snapshot of the emerging differences among mobile news users,” said Amy Mitchell, the project’s Acting Director and the study’s lead author. “Understanding these patterns is important for news organizations as they try to engage their audiences – and build new revenue streams to support journalism.”

The report also details demographic differences in specific activities pursued by mobile news consumers. For example, mobile news users in lower-income households are more likely to say they watch video on both smartphones and tablets. Women stand out for being more likely to get news through social media on both types of devices. And on smartphones, young people emerge as heavier readers of books and magazines.

Read the full report.

In addition to the above report, PEJ and The Economist Group, with the help of Visual.ly, invited designers to visualize the data from The Future of Mobile News report. Four submissions have been selected and can be viewed on PEJ’s website, The Economist‘s TumblrPinterest and Facebook pages, and The Economist‘s Graphic Detail blog.

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The Project for Excellence in Journalism tracks the transformation of journalism in a changing information landscape through its annual State of the News Media report and other special reports. As part of the nonpartisan, non-advocacy Pew Research Center, it does not take positions on policy issues.