iPad news Apps set to kill off the newspaper

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute has recently completed the first phase of a multi-year research project to understand how Apple iPad users consume news content. The organisation whose mission is to develop and test ways to improve journalism through new technology and improved processes plans to conduct at least two follow-up panel surveys and another cross-sectional survey in 2011.

Based on responses gathered from more than 1,600 iPad users from the beginning of September through the end of November, the RJI has learned that iPad users are predominantly well-educated, affluent males between the ages of 35 and 64 who tend to be early adopters.

More than four-fifths (80.2 per cent) of survey respondents were men, and more than half (55.6 per cent) reported a household income of at least $100,000 a year. More than three quarters (76.3 per cent) had at least a bachelor's degree, with 38 per cent of all respondents with at least a master's degree. More than two-thirds (69.5 per cent) were between the ages of 35 and 64, with an average age of 48, with nearly half (44.6 per cent) having acquired their iPads in April or May 2010. No surprises there.

The researchers found that overall satisfaction with the iPad is very high, with more than nine out of 10 respondents rated their overall satisfaction as either very satisfied (70.2 per cent) or somewhat satisfied (23.4 per cent), and more than three-quarters (76.1 per cent) indicating that they would very likely recommend the iPad to a friend or relative.

More than six out of 10 (62.7 per cent) reported that they spent more than an hour during a typical day with their iPad, with nearly three out of 10 (28.3 per cent) saying they used their iPad more than two hours a day.

The good news for publishers? Keeping up with news and current events was the most popular reported main use for the iPads, with 84.4 per cent of respondents saying this is one of their main uses. Next according to popularity were: leisure reading of books, newspapers and magazines (81.5 per cent); browsing the Web (80.8 per cent); and e-mail (75.8 per cent).

More than three quarters (78.6 per cent) of users spent at least 30 minutes during a typical day consuming news on their iPad, while respondents spent a similar amount of time with other media at a much lower rate: television (52.5 per cent), personal computers (50.7 per cent), printed Sunday newspapers (30.7 per cent), printed weekday newspapers (18.8 per cent), while nearly half (48.9 per cent) said they spent an hour or more during a typical day consuming news on their iPad.

The not so good news for old media publishers: these iPad news consumers prefer newspaper apps to newspaper websites, and are less likely to use print media. Of those who said they read at least an hour's worth of news on their iPads each day, more than nine out of 10 respondents said they are either very likely (71.8 per cent) or somewhat likely (21.2 per cent) to use a newspaper's app for reading news and feature stories as opposed to using a Web browser to navigate the newspaper's website, a trend inconsistent among lighter iPad news users as well, suggesting that users who consume news on the iPad tend to prefer to do so using an app.

The researchers report that correlation analysis shows that the more one uses the iPad for news consumption, the less he or she uses printed newspapers

Among the 931 respondents who indicated that they currently subscribe to print newspapers, there was a statistically significant, moderately strong, positive correlation between iPad news consumption and the likelihood of cancelling their print subscriptions. Ouch!

For example, more than half (58.1 per cent) of the respondents who subscribe to printed newspapers and use their iPad at least an hour a day for news said they are very likely to cancel their print subscriptions within the next six months, and more than three out of 10 (30.6 per cent) indicated that they don't subscribe to printed newspapers, and another one in 10 (10.7 per cent) saying they had canceled their former subscriptions to hard copy newspapers and switched to reading digital newspapers on their iPad, with the trend lines indicating that more one uses an iPad to consume news, the more one is likely to use other digital media for news.

About six out of 10 respondents indicated that they had used an e-reader for some period of time prior to taking the survey, and of those, about 30% indicated that they had used it to consume news during a typical day.

Roughly three-quarters of respondents implied that they had used an iPhone, and of those, about 70% indicated that they had used the smartphone to consume news during a typical day, and approximately two-thirds indicating that they had used a smartphone other than an iPhone.

Nearly nine out of ten respondents (89.2 per cent) said they used a personal computer for some period of time during a typical day to consume news, and nearly all (99 per cent) indicated that they used their iPad for some period of time during a typical day to consume news.

When asked to rate their reading experience on the iPad compared to other media on a five-point scale (1= much worse than, 5 = much better than), reading experiences with the iPad, on average, were rated as being somewhat better than or about the same as their reading experiences with printed newspapers or magazines and personal computers, and with nearly half of respondents rating their experience with reading on the iPad as much better than their reading experiences with iPhones (48.1 per cent) or other smartphones (47.2 per cent).

The survey indicated that the age of the user will influence how one perceives their reading experience on the iPad compared to other media, with older users more likely to rate their reading experience on the iPad worse than their reading experience with printed newspapers and magazines, although older users also tended to rate their iPad reading experience much better than electronic devices with smaller screens, such as iPhones, smartphones, and netbooks.

As might be expected, relative satisfaction with iPad news content consumption was strongly related to traditional media use, particularly with newspapers. Ergo: the more a respondent had read printed newspapers in the past 30 days, the worse they would rate their iPad reading experience compared to reading a printed newspaper.

When asked in an open-ended question as to what factors would influence decisions to purchase news apps or newspaper subscriptions for the iPad, "a price lower than the price of a print subscription" was mentioned most often. Users also indicated that they want a very easy-to-use and reliable app, with access to at least all the content available in the printed edition, but perhaps surprisingly, video and interactive features being less frequently cited as influential factors.

News organisations reported as coming closest to meeting iPad news consumers' expectations included The New York Times, USA Today, The Associated Press, and The Wall Street Journal.

About 92 per cent of respondents were located in the United States, with non-US respondents (8 per cent) located in at least 49 countries.

This ongoing research project is headed by Roger Fidler, RJI Program Director for Digital Publishing and DPA coordinator. Adam Maksl, a Ph.D. student in the Missouri School of Journalism assisting with the data analysis and survey design.