Paul Grabowicz delivers a wonderful roundup of the history and current state of reading on tablet sized screens.
For more research, the links at the bottom of the article are invaluable.
While cellphones have become ubiquitous as mobile devices, it’s been a much longer road to popularity for tablet computers – portable electronic devices that try to fill a void between tiny screen cellphones and more cumbersome laptops.
Roger Fidler was one of the original proponents of these portable “electronic tablets” when he ran the Knight Ridder Information Design Lab in the early 1990s. See this story and this 1994 videoshowing Fidler’s vision (Fidler is now at the Reynolds Journalism Institute as Program Director for Digital Publishing).
Many companies subsequently produced various forms of tablet computers as reading devices, such as the SoftBook and the Rocket eBook in the late 1990s and Sony’s e-book readers in the mid to late 2000s. But most of the devices failed to gain much traction with consumers.
Other companies in the 1990s also worked on developing “electronic paper” or “e-ink” technology that would be used in wafer-thin flexible displays that theoretically could be rolled up and put in a briefcase, backpack or purse. But years passed with no consumer product hitting store shelves.
Then with Amazon’s release of the popular Kindle e-book reader in late 2007, buzz about portable tablet computers heated up again.
By 2010 and 2011 a number of sophisticated tablet computers were being produced, usually with color displays and/or wireless Internet connections for downloading up-to-date news and information. The new tablets include:
- Apple’s iPad announced in January 2010. The iPad quickly became the leading tablet computing device, and 25 million of the devices had been sold by June 2011.
- Barnes & Noble introduced the Nook eBook reader
- Amazon in 2011 released an upgraded version of its Kindle reader called Kindle Fire
- Microsoft in 2012 released its Surface tablet computer
By January 2012, 19 percent of U.S. adults owned a tablet computer, 19 percent owned an eBook reader, and 29 percent owned one or the other, according to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
The increased popularity of portable tablet computers has sparked debate over whether news organizations will be able to take advantage of them as a new, and potentially profitable content delivery platform.
A key question is what form publications and stories will take on tablets:
- Will consumers favor the look and feel of websites or will more traditional magazine or newspaper style presentations prove popular?
- Will people prefer using a web browser to access websites of publications, or will they gravitate toward dedicated applications that publications create to display content on a tablet device? A Miratech study found that people prefer a dedicated app to web browsing on the iPad. But a Pew Research Center survey in October 2011 reported that while two-thirds of tablet news users have a news app, the web browser was still the more popular way to consume news (40 percent of tablet news users got their news mainly via a web browser). AnOnline Publishers Association study in June 2012 reported that tablet owners preferred websites to applications for accessing newspaper and magazine content. A usability study by Jakob Nielsen found that websites displayed pretty well on an iPad and reading a web page thus was fairly easy.
- Will a new form emerge that improves the reader experience, making it more immersive and engaging while also allowing for more compelling and effective advertising?
Look at Sports Illustrated’s idea for how its content might be displayed on a tablet, the Mag+concept for putting magazines on tablets and Wired magazine’s vision for what it might look like on an iPad.
See the Orange County Register’s The Peel iPad app that includes stories featured in the next day’s paper, a live feed of weather, traffic and breaking news and multimedia content. The application is customized for a tablet and looks nothing like the newspaper’s website or the print product.
See how Flyp presented multimedia stories in a more magazine-like format that also includes video, photos, animations, interactive graphics and text on pages you flip through (Flyp later becameZemi, which produces multimedia stories for publishers).
And check out vook, which takes a traditional book format and adds video, interactivity and social networking.
Apple also announced in January 2012 its iBooks Author tool that journalists can use to easily create interactive multimedia long-form stories for display on the iPad.
Other applications provide personalized newsfeeds:
- Flipboard provides a customized feed that combines stories from news publications and postings to social media sites
- Pulse pulls in stories people select from a variety of different publications
How People Use the iPad
Especially important is whether tablet devices like the iPad offer a more leisurely lean-back reading experience at home than either cellphone browsers/applications, which people use while on the go, or computer terminals, on which people usually read news stories while at work, rather than during leisure time at home.
Here’s what studies and surveys of iPad users have found:
Time Spent on a Tablet
- Some early research by Conde Nast on how people use iPad applications of the company’s magazines indicates that reading of stories is more of a “lean back activity” done at home.
- A survey by the Reynolds Journalism Institute of iPad users found that:
- people were spending significant amounts of time with the devices (75 percent spent 30 minutes or more a day reading news)
- they most frequently used the iPad at home (73%)
- the most popular use of the iPad was reading about breaking news and current events (84 percent of users listed this as one of their main uses).
- 77 percent of tablet owners use them every day and spend an average of 90 minutes a day on them, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalismreleased in October 2011. Reading news stories was also one of the most popular activities for tablet owners, and 42 percent said they regularly read in-depth stories or analyses on their tablets.
- A study by Localytics found that people spend 2 1/2 times longer using iPad news applications than other types of iPad apps.
- A study by Miratech that used eyetracking technology to compare how people read a print newspaper vs. an iPad found that readers are more likely to skim an iPad article than a printed article.
- A study by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri reported that two-thirds of mobile media consumers 18 to 34 years old said they spent an average of 5 hours week using their mobile devices to access news provided by news organizations.
When People Read on a Tablet
- Data compiled by Read It Later found that iPad users are most likely to read articles during “personal prime time” in the evening.
- Data from ComScore shows that readership of content produced by newspapers increases on the iPad in the evening, compared with readership on a laptop or cellphone.
- An Online Publishers Association survey in June 2012 also found that the biggest usage of tablets was between 5 and 11 p.m.
What Information People Access on a Tablet
Tablet users are somewhat different in the kind of information they consume than users of other mobile devices like smartphones. Tablet users ore somewhat more likely than smartphone users to access news and information or watch videos on their devices, according to a survey of mobile device users by Keynote.
Tablet Aggregator Applications
- An eMedia Vitals analysis of the most popular iPad applications in 2010 found they tended to be aggregators of content from a variety of sources, practical applications that provide useful information to people, and those that are free – rather than paid apps that only present news stories from a particular publication.
- But a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released in October 2011 reported in a that 90 percent of tablet application users went directly to the app of a specific news organization to get news headlines, comparied with 36 percent who went to a news aggregator application.
Paying for News on a Tablet
- A Knowledge Networks survey of iPad users found that only 13 percent are willing to pay a fee to read a magazine or watch a TV program to which they already have access. The most popular uses of the iPad were search, web browsing and email, while applications to read news media content were much less popular.
- A survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released in October 2011 found that only 14 percent of tablet users had paid directly to access news and the vast majority preferred free or very low cost access to news.
- A Nielsen report on data for the fourth quarter of 2011 found that 62 percent of U.S. tablet owners have paid for downloaded music, 58 percent for books, 51 percent for movies, but only 19 percent for news.
- An Online Publishers Association survey in June 2012 found that while the amount of money tablet users spent on paid applications had doubled in the last year, 54 percent of tablet ownerspreferred free, ad-supported applications vs. paid apps, up from 40 percent the year before. Tablet users also were more likely to have purchased magazines or ebooks than newspaper subscriptions.
Advertising on a Tablet
- An Adobe-sponsored study by a University of Connecticut researcher of iPad users found that interactive advertising in digital magazines can engage people more than static print ads.
Tablets and Traditional Media
A majority of tablet owners who frequently used the devices to get news still subscribed to traditional media like newspapers or news magazines, according to a 2012 survey by the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
But 60 percent of large tablet users said consuming news on the devices was a superior experience to reading a printed newspaper, and 63 percent said the experience was better than watching news on a TV, according to the RJI survey.
Readings and Resources
- Why Have Tablets Flopped? Here Are Five Reasons - New York Times, 10/5/2009
- Apple’s Tabula Rosa - Mark Potts, Recovering Journalist, 1/3/2010
- Nine Questions: On Tablet Dreams, Schemes and Screens of Hope - Ken Doctor, Content Bridges, 1/3/2010
- What to Expect From the ‘iTunes for Magazines’ - MediaShift, 1/6/2010
- Geek Squad Founder: Journalism Start-Ups Must Think Mobile First - SustainableJournalism.org, 1/7/2010
- Holy Moses! Media need to gear up for tablets - Reflections of a Newsosaur, 1/8/2010
- The Year of the Tablet? - Steve Yelvington, 1/8/2010
- Apple’s New Tablet? Been There, Done That - Huffington Post, 1/8/2010
- Screen gems: Roger Fidler talks about e-readers, tablets and our digital future - Society for News Design, 1/14/2010
- UGA researchers find e-readers fall short as news delivery tool - University of Georgia, 1/25/2010
- Five Ways the iPad Will Change Magazine Design, Luke Hayman, Pentragram, 1/27/2010
- The iPad: Quick Publisher Scorecard - Ken Doctor, Content Bridges, 1/27/2010
- Will the iPad Help Media? Possibly. Save Media? No. - Matthew Ingram, GigaOM, 1/27/2010
- Can iPad save media? Skeptics weigh in - Alan Mutter, Reflections of a Newsosaur, 1/28/2010
- A Free iPad with Your Paid Subscription? - Joe Zeff Design Blog, 1/29/2010
- To Deliver, iPad Needs Media Deals - David Carr, New York Times, 2/1/2010
- I Don’t Like the iPad Because… - John Battelle’s Searchblog, 2/27/2010
- Taking The Tablet: 15 Ways Publishers Are Re-Imagining The Magazine - paidContent.org, March 2010
- News site visitors look like early tech adopters - Alan Mutter, Reflections of a Newsosaur, 3/22/2010
- comScore Releases Results of Study on Apple iPad and E-Reader Consumer Attitudes, Behaviors and Purchase Intent - comScore, 3/22/2010
- Advertisers Show Interest in iPad - New York Times, 3/24/2010
- For the media biz, iPad 2010 = CDROM 1994 - Scot Rosenberg’s Wordyard, 3/26/2010
- The people who want to buy iPads are… - Jonathan Dube, CyberJournalist.net, 3/31/2010. Summary of research by NPD Group.
- NYT readies a free iPad app for those who don’t want to pay; plus first looks at NPR, WSJ, AP, Bloomberg, and USA Today on iPad - Joshua Benton, Nieman Journalism Lab, 4/1/2010
- First news apps for iPad draw mixed reviews - Damon Kiesow, Mobile Media at Poynter Online, 4/2/2010
- iPad Usability: First Findings From User Testing - Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, 4/26/2010
- Lean-forward vs. lean-back media - Jeremy Rue, JeremyRue.com blog, 5/4/2010
- iPad users are big news consumers: study - Alan Mutter, Reflections of a Newsosaur, 5/6/2010
- 1-in-5 U.S. Consumers Plan to Buy Apple’s iPad - PC World, 5/20/2010
- I Prefer Safari to Content Apps On The iPad - Fred Wilson, AVC, 5/30/2010
- iPad magazines: Don’t believe the hype - Pete Cashmore, CNN, 6/24/2010
- Digital Magazines Don’t Encourage Socializing - New York Times, 6/29/2010
- A Second Chance: How mobile devices can absolve journalism of its original sin: giving away online content - Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 2010
- Flipboard Launches as the iPad’s Social Media Magazine - Mashable, 7/21/2010
- Analyst: Competitors can’t catch up to iPad - CNET News, 10/5/2010
- News Outlets Circle Tablet – Newspapers, Magazines Plan Apps for the Samsung Galaxy, Hedging on iPad - Wall Street Journal, 10/8/2010
- Condé Nast Study Concludes iPad Is Not A Mobile Device (At Least Not Now) - mocoNews.net, 10/12/2010
- Condé Nast Research Touts iPad Extensions - Mediaweek, 10/12/2010
- Connected Devices: Does the iPad Change Everything? - Nielsen Wire, 10/21/2010. Includes data with interesting comparisons between how people use the iPad vs. the iPhone.
- App to Tailor News Streams Gets Boost - New York Times, 11/14/2010. Story about the Pulse News Reader, a mobile app for a customized newsfeed of stories from a variety of publications.
- The Habits of Online Newspaper Readers – Wall Street Journal, 11/15/2010. Chart showing when people read an online newspaper on a computer, a smart phone or an iPad.
- iPad news apps may diminish newspaper print subscriptions in 2011 - Reynolds Journalism Institute, 12/9/2010; A survey of iPad users and their news consumption habits.
- RJI survey reveals potential iPad impact on print subscriptions - Poynter Institute, 12/10/2010
- What publishers can learn from Apple’s top iPad apps - Ellie Behling’s Blog, eMedia Vitals, 12/28/2010
- iPad Magazine Sales Drop - Memo Pad, Women’s Wear Daily, 12/29/2010
- Why iPad Magazine Sales Are Not As Bad As They Seem - Mashable, 12/29/2010
- Is the iPad bringing back narrative journalism? - Ellie Behling’s Blog, eMedia Vitals, 12/30/2010
- Business Realities of Tablets and E-Readers - Robert Picard, Editor & Publisher, 1/11/2011 Article by Robert Picard, director of research at the Oxford University’s Reuters Institute.
- Is Mobile Affecting When We Read - Read It Later, 1/12/2011
- IPad Users Prefer Advertising to Pay Model for Content - Advertising Age, 1/17/2011. Article on Knowledge Networks survey of iPad users.
- New research study: advertising engagement in digital magazines - Adobe Publishing Digital, 1/24/2011
- Readers are more likely to skim over articles on an iPad than in a newspaper - Miratech white paper using eyetracking technology, 2/2011
- News Corp introduces “The Daily” for iPad - Lost Remote, 2/2/2011
- The Habits of Online Newspaper Readers - Wall Street Journal, 11/15/2010. Infographic of ComScore data comparing when people read content produced by newspapers during the day on a cellphone, laptop or iPad.
- The Newsonomics of Apps and HTML5 - Ken Doctor, Newsomomics, 2/3/2011
- Apps 6 Times More Popular than Web on Phones, Less Popular on Tablets - ReadWrite Mobile, 5/17/2011
- Usability of iPad Apps and Websites, 2nd edition - Nielsen Norman Group report, 2011
- OPA Releases Findings of New Tablet Study and Implications for the Online Advertising Industry - Online Publishers Association press release, 6/22/2011
- Two-Thirds Of Tablet Owners Are Willing To Pay For Media Apps - PaidContent, 6/22/2011. Article on the Online Publishers Association study
- E-reader ownership doubles in six months - Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, 6/27/2011. Survey also reports that tablet computer growth apparently is slowing.
- How We Use the Tools We Choose: A Week of Worldwide Usage Data - Readwriteweb, 7/6/2011
- It’s hard to browse the web with an iPad - Miratech white paper, July 2011
- Local News + Google Maps + Social Media = TapIn - StreetFight, 7/13/2011
- New Yorker iPad App Hits 100,000 Readers, Begins to Define a Genre - ReadWriteWeb, 8/3/2011
- Games, News Apps Top iPad User Engagement Categories - Localytics, 8/23/2011
- The Tablet Revolution: How People Use Tablets and What it Means for the Future of News - Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, 10/25/2011
- Apple’s Newsstand a Huge Success for Digital Publishers - Wired, 10/26/2011
- Survey: Tablet users love digital magazines, want to buy directly from ads - TabTimes, 11/22/2011
- Seeing the Future: Decades before the debut of the iPad, Roger Fidler was an evangelist for the tablet as a news device - American Journalism Review, 11/29/2011
- Consumers on tablet devices: having fun, shopping and engaging with ads - Google Mobile Ads Blog, 11/30/2011
- A war story, a Kindle Single, and hope for long-form journalism - O’Reilly radar – 12/15/2011
- Mobile Devices and News Consumption: Some Good Signs for Journalism - The State of the News Media 2012, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. A special report on mobile as part of PEJ’s annual report on the news media.
- The Tablet Market: What We Know and What It Means For the Future – Editor & Publisher, 1/11/2012
- Tablet and E-book reader Ownership Nearly Double Over the Holiday Gift-Giving Period - Pew Internet & American Life Project, 1/23/2012
- Tablet Magazine Experience Falls Short - eMarketer, 2/14/2012
- 2012 Mobile Future in Focus - comScore, 2/23/2012. White paper that includes data on when people use computers, tablets and cellphones to get news
- American and European Tablet Owners More Comfortable Paying for Content - Neilsen Wire, 3/15/2012; Excerpt: “Americans are the most likely to pay for all categories of media content, except news.”
- iPad Users Are Spending $70,000 A Day On iPad Newspapers And Magazines - Business Insider, 3/27/2012
- The newsonomics of the Next Issue magazine future - Ken Doctor, Nieman Journalism Lab, 4/4/2012
- Tablets Siphoning Away Time With Desktops and Traditional Media - Mashable, 4/11/2012
- Financial Times passes 2m users for its HTML5 web app - Guardian, Apps Blog, 4/24/2012
- Why Publishers Don’t Like App: The future of media on mobile devices isn’t with applications but with the Web - Jason Pontin, Technology Review, 5/7/2012
- MRI: Magazine Digital Readership Tiny but Growing - Advertising Week, 5/30/2012. Digital magazine editions of all kinds, including apps, are growing in popularity, but still total less than 1 percent of magazine subscriptions.
- OPA Study Reveals Attitudes of Today’s Tablet User - Online Publishers Association, 6/18/2012
- Study: Tablet users more likely to buy magazines, e-books than news, newspapers - Poynter Online, 6/18/2012. More details on the Online Publishers Association study.
- More Tablet Owners Want Free Apps, With Ads, Instead of Paid - Advertising Age, 6/18/2012. More on the Online Publishers Association study.
- What are owners doing with their mobile media devices? Executive Summary: 2012 RJI Mobile Media News Consumption Survey - Roger Fidler, Reynolds Journalism Institute, 6/19/2012
- The Economist Group’s digital strategy: Lean-forward and lean-back digital editions - The Economist Group, 6/18/2012
- Which mobile devices are owners using most frequently for news? Executive Summary: 2012 RJI Mobile Media News Consumption Survey – Reynolds Journalism Institute, 7/9/2012
- Next Issue brings 39 all-you-can-read magazines to iPad - PaidContent, 7/10/2012
- How People Actually Use The iPad: Results From Our Exclusive Survey - Business Insider, 7/18/2012
- Q4: How do owners of different mobile media media device brands differ? - 2012 RJI Mobile Media News Consumption Survey, Reynolds Journalism Institute, 7/30/2012
- The Daily Lays Off a Third of Its Staff - AllThingsD, 7/31/2012
- Tablet users to websites: ‘Don’t keep me waiting more than a few seconds’ - TabTimes, 8/6/2012
- Goodnight Peel. Lessons Learned - Doug Bennett weblog, 9/4/2012. A postmortem on The Peel, an iPad app developed by the Orange County Register.
- 1994 video - Roger Fidler
- Tablet and eBook users - Pew
- iBooks Author
- The Peel - Orange County Register
- Conde Nast survey – magazine iPad apps
- Reynolds Journalism Institute survey – iPad users
- Reynolds Journalism Institute survey – mobile device users
- Pew Research Center - time spent
- Localytics study - iPad apps
- Miratech survey - eyetracking
- Reynolds Journalism Institute survey – iPad users
- Read It Later – iPad article reading
- The Habits of Online Newspaper Readers – ComScore data
- Reynolds Journalism Institute survey - mobile devices and news
- Women’s Wear Daily story – magazine app sales
- Apple Newsstand
- Reynolds Journalism Institute - mobile users survey
- eMedia Vitals survey - iPad app sales
- Pew Research Center - paying for news
- Nielsen report - paying for content
- OPA Tablet Study - willingness to pay for content
- iPad Users Are Spending $70,000 A Day On iPad Newspapers And Magazines
- Jakob Nielsen – iPad usability study
- Pew Research Center - browser vs. app
- Business Insider Survey
- The Ration - UC Berkeley Journalism School