2014 RJI Mobile Media Research Report 8

Newspaper subscribers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets while retaining a strong attachment to print, according to the latest mobile media survey from the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI). The percentage of respondents who said they subscribed to at least one printed newspaper remained at around 30 percent between Q1 2013 and Q1 2014 (see chart 8.2 and 2013 report 6).

Most of the growth in mobile media usage by both subscribers and nonsubscribers was among seniors aged 55 or older (see chart 8.6 and 2013 report 6). Nearly half (49 percent) of subscribers aged 55 or older said they used smartphones and/or tablets in the week prior to participating in the 2014 survey (see chart 8.5). 

Nonsubscribers have not given up on printed editions entirely. About one-third said they had read stories and about one-quarter said they had looked at ads in printed newspapers in the week prior to participating in the 2014 survey. By comparison, 84 percent of subscribers said they had read stories and 66 percent had looked at ads in printed newspapers (see chart 8.13). 

The attachment of subscribers to print was most evident when asked about their main sources of national/international and local news. Not surprisingly, broadcast and cable news programs were selected by a majority of subscribers and nonsubscribers, although subscribers were significantly less likely than nonsubscribers to select broadcast and cable for local news (see chart 8.14). 

The differences were greatest for print newspapers. Among subscribers, 23 percent selected newspapers as their main source for national/international news compared with only 5 percent among nonsubscribers; for local news, 42 percent of subscribers and 9 percent of nonsubscribers selected newspapers as their main source (see chart 8.14).  Among RJI’s other findings:

  • Nearly 6 in 10 nonsubscribers overall said they used smartphones and/or tablets to keep up with the news in the week prior to participating in the 2014 survey. Less than half (47 percent) of subscribers overall said they used mobile media for news in the same period.
  • Subscribers who used mobile news apps were much more likely than nonsubscribers to use mobile apps branded by newspapers (see chart 8.17 and chart 8.19).
  • Subscribers in all age groups were more likely to pay for subscriptions to mobile news content. Among newspaper subscribers, 11 percent overall said they paid for mobile content; only 5 percent overall of nonsubscribers said they paid (see chart 8.15).
  • Nonsubscribers were more likely to use only a smartphone (see chart 8.7).
  • Subscriber households averaged 2.2 persons; nonsubscriber households averaged 3.1 persons (see chart 8.4).
  • Less than 3 in 10 subscriber households had children living at home; 4 in 10 nonsubscriber households had one or more children living at home. More than half (54 percent) of subscriber households consisted of two adults (see chart 8.4).
  • Nearly 8 in 10 nonsubscriber households had one or more smartphones; about two-thirds of subscriber households had one or more smartphones (see chart 8.9).
  • The percentages of subscriber and nonsubscriber households that had one or more tablets were nearly the same (see chart 8.9). 

Coming soon: Report 9 explores attitudes about journalists and perceived credibility of news media by mobile media users and nonusers. 

Nearly 1,200 randomly selected U.S. adults participated in RJI’s third annual Mobile Media News Consumption Survey between January 1 and March 31. This phone survey focused exclusively on the use of smartphones and touch-screen tablets with mobile operating systems. RJI’s previous surveys included questions about the use of e-readers and other Internet-enabled mobile devices, such as netbooks, tablet PCs, hand-held computers and ultra-light notebooks.

Roger Fidler  
Program Director for Digital Publishing (Retired)


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