Survey: Half of U.S. Adults Own a Smartphone or Tablet, Most Use It for News

Paul Lilly

Want to know why hardware and software makers are putting so much emphasis into the mobile market? It's because the mobile market is a ginormous freight train that keeps picking up passengers along the way. According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) and The Economist Group, 22 percent of all adults living in the U.S. own a tablet, 44 percent own a smartphone, and half of them own either one.

These devices aren't just used for fun and games, either. News consumption remains an important part of what people are using their mobile devices for, which is putting it lightly. Based on the survey, nearly two-thirds of tablet and smartphone owners -- 64 percent and 62 percent, respectively -- use their mobile devices to check news at least weekly, tying statistically with other popular activities, like email and playing games.

"Mobile users, moreover, are not just checking headlines on their devices, although nearly all use the devices for the latest new updates. Many also are reading longer news stories - 73 percent of adults who consume news on their tablet read in-depth articles at least sometimes, including 19 percent who do so daily. Fully 61 percent of smartphone news consumers at least sometimes read longer stories, 11 percent regularly," PEJ says.

Mobile and online access is something major news corporations have struggled to fully take advantage of. Many have erected paywalls, which isn't always a popular option among readers who feel they should be able to get their news for free, or at least for less than what some subscription-based outlets charge. Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch once said that "having a free newspaper website is a flawed business model" and predicted the end is nigh for such sites. He's also been very outspoken against news aggregators and once toyed with the idea of removing News Corp. content from search engines.

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