updated 08:05 pm EST, Thu December 9, 2010
Users read more, enjoy it -- but cancel subs
A survey of 1,600 iPad owners conducted by the David W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri delivers a mixed bag of news for the world of print journalism. On the plus side, the survey found that most iPad owners spend a substantive amount of time reading news on the iPad, and enjoy reading both international and local news via specific newspaper and news-service apps. The bad news is that those same happy readers are the very ones abandoning print editions.
The survey's overall conclusion -- that once a user has the option of reading newspapers on the iPad, they tend to cancel their print subscriptions -- should come as no surprise to the struggling industry. What is encouraging to publishers, however, is that the high satisfaction rate and strong interest in digital newspaper applications versus simply reading news headlines off a web site indicates a willingness to pay for "e-subscriptions" so users can continue and expand the depth and habit of "the newspaper experience."
Just under half of all respondents said that reading news on an iPad was a better or somewhat-better experience to traditional newspaper reading -- though the suvey showed that older readers with more background in print reading rated it lower than younger, computer-reading-oriented users -- but the key to getting those readers to pay for digital news was to offer the same (and more, such as video) content in a well-designed app at lower prices than print subscriptions. Existing apps like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Associated Press were mentioned as examples of good-value applications.
The survey found that iPad users are predominantly well-educated, affluent men from 35-64 who tend to be early adopters, and that 75 percent said they spend at least 30 minutes a day "consuming" news on the iPad. Fifty percent said they spend an hour or more each day on news. Users tend to read news apps to keep up with "breaking" news, and tended to also use the iPad to do their leisure reading and casual browsing. It also found that overall satisfaction with the iPad was very high, with older or regular newspaper readers appreciating the news apps available on the iPad the most.
But as iPad users get in the habit of reading their news on an iPad, they tend to abandon the print version. Half of the 931 respondents who had print subscriptions indicated they were likely to cancel them within six months. Thirty percent of respondents indicated they had never subscribed to newspapers, and ten percent had already "switched" from print subscriptions to digital news reading entirely. Ninety percent said they prefer to use a newspaper's own application for reading news and features rather than using a web browser.
A deeper survey with more open-ended questions about iPads and news consumption will be published at a later date. The survey was conducted from the beginning of September through the end of November.