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Among tablet users who have not paid directly for content, only 21 per cent would be willing to spend $5 per month to access their favourite source on the tablet. (CBC)

Tablet users are more avid news readers than the general public and many read even more news after getting one of the devices, a new study suggests.

Sixty-eight per cent of 1,159 U.S. tablet users surveyed by telephone in the summer and early fall of 2011 and said they follow news "all or most of the time," the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Economist Group reports. A Pew study in 2010 found 56 per cent of American adults overall follow news "all or most of the time."

"While this population [tablet users] may be more oriented towards news, there's something about the tablet that's causing them to do what they're inclined to do even more and in new ways," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the project and a lead author of the study.

He noted that among 874 tablet users who said they get their news on the devices weekly, 33 per cent said they are turning to new news sources on their tablets and 30 per cent said they spend more time getting news than before they had their tablet. Only four per cent said they spend less time and 65 per cent said they spend the same amount of time.

A particularly interesting finding was that 42 per cent of tablet users said they read in-depth articles regularly in the tablet.

Long articles popular

"That's a big deal," Rosenstiel said, noting that previous research has found people don't read a lot of long-form articles on other digital platforms such as laptops, desktops and mobile phones.

Of 300 who were asked in a web survey about their reading habits in the past week, 88 per cent said they had read a long-form article during that time and 53 per cent said they did that at least daily. A majority (55 per cent) preferred to read longer articles on their tablets, compared with 22 per cent who preferred print magazines or newspapers and 20 per cent who preferred desktop or laptop computers.

"This is pretty good evidence that people think of the tablet as a perfectly fine way of reading at leisure, reading in depth," Rosenstiel said.

Some other findings of the survey were:

  • Tablet users spend an average of one hour and 35 minutes daily using the devices.
  • Fifty-three per cent of tablet users consume news on their tablet daily, making it the third most popular activity on the devices after web browsing (done by 67 per cent daily) and checking email (done by 54 per cent of users daily.) It is far more popular than social networking, gaming or reading books.
  • Seventy-one per cent of tablet users prefer reading and listening to news over watching it. Rosenstiel said this may be due in part to the fact that the iPad doesn't support Flash, a popular video format. Just 45 per cent of U.S. adults overall prefer reading and listening to news over watching it.
  • Only 14 per cent have paid directly for news content on their tablets, although 23 per cent have a subscription to a print newspaper or magazine that includes digital access. However, among those who have not paid directly for content, only 21 per cent would be willing to spend $5 per month to access their favourite source on the tablet.
  • Twice as many news-reading tablet users (40 per cent) prefer to get news mainly using a web browser than through a news app (21 per cent). Thirty-one per cent use both equally.
  • Ninety per cent of news-reading tablet users say they consume news on the tablet that they used to get in other ways, especially via their desktop computer.

The results for tablet users overall are considered accurate within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, while the results for weekly news reading tablet users is considered accurate within percentage points. The web survey is considered accurate within plus or minus six percentage points, 19 times out of 20.