Roughly half (47%) of US adults report that they get at least some local news and information on their cellphone or tablet computer, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Project For Excellence in Journalism. “State of the Media 2011” indicates 84% of US adults own a cell phone or tablet computer, meaning 56% of mobile users obtain news online.
Weather Most Popular Mobile Local News Item
Pew analysis indicates adults tend to use mobile devices to get local news and information that serve an immediate need. The study asked specifically about the kinds of local information obtained through mobile devices. The most sought-after material was local weather. About 4 in 10 mobile phone and tablet owners (42%) use their mobile device to access local weather information. That represents 36% of all American adults.
The next biggest category among cellphone and tablet owners was information on restaurants or other local businesses (37%). General local news came next (30%), followed by other news such as up-to-the minute information of local sports scores (24%) and the latest local traffic and transportation (22%).
Mobile access to coupons and discounts from local businesses (19%), on the other hand, has yet to be used widely. The same is true for local news alerts (13%).
Respondents were also asked a separate series of questions about what sources they rely on most for a wide range of local news areas. This list of areas asked about included crime, community events, schools and education, politics and cultural events and social services. Just a small fraction cited a mobile device as a primary source for any of these. Thus, for now, Pew data indicates that mobile devices are mainly a supplemental platform for local news and information, not a primary source.
Mobile Local News Skews Young
The study shows adults who consume mobile local news content reflect many of the same traits as owners of mobile devices: They are disproportionately young, affluent, highly educated and live in non-rural communities. This group also tilts towards newer residents of their communities.
For example, 70% of 18-to-29-year-old adults consume mobile local news, compared to just 8% of those 65 and older. Two-thirds (67%) of adults with a household income of $75,000 or higher are local mobile news users, compared to 4 in 10 (39%) of those with a household income of $30,000 or less. Similar disparities exist in terms of education level community type, and length of time living in a community.
Minorities, Parents More Likely to Consume Mobile Local News
In a couple of other interesting demographic trends, minorities and parents are more likely than non-Hispanic whites and non-parents to consume mobile local news. Fifty-two percent of Hispanic adults consume mobile local news, compared to 51% of black non-Hispanic adults and 45% of white non-Hispanic adults. A much larger discrepancy exists between parents of a minor child (64%) and those without a minor child (40%).
Young Adults More Likely to Get Almost All Types of Mobile Info
Younger users are also more likely than others to use their mobile devices for specific types of local news and information. The one exception is among those receiving local news alerts sent by text or e-mail to mobile devices. Here, mobile device-owning adults age 30-49 (21%) are slightly ahead of those 18-29 (17%). Still, Pew says the results suggest that if these patterns hold as people age, mobile is likely to become a much more powerful factor in news consumption.
Internet News Platform Grows 17%
Other Pew data indicates the US audience for the internet news platform grew 17.1% between 2009 and 2010. Every other major news platform declined during that year. For example, the local TV audience declined the least among the other platforms at 1.5%, while the cable TV audience declined the most at 13.7%.
About the Data: Princeton Survey Research Associates International surveyed 2,251 national adults, age 18 and older, including 750 cell phone interviews, between January 12-25, 2011, for the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.