Digital Publication Readership – To Be Saved by Apple News+? [TUPdate]

Magazine and newspaper writers envision a world of digitally-connected readers hanging on their every word. Despite the ubiquity of connected devices, from smartphones and PCs to tablets, that’s not currently the case. Fewer than half of online adults regularly read a magazine, newspaper, or periodical using any one of these connected devices. Also, while Apple’s customers are more active digital readers than most, Apple’s News+ service is being launched into a chilling headwind. This is based on results from our TUP/Technology User Profile survey of 14,273 adults across five countries.

Only in India and China do the majority of online adults regularly use any of their devices to read periodicals. In the US, UK, and Germany, this rate is nearer to four-tenths of online adults.

Active readers are appearing to favor convenience over multi-device accessibility. Across the countries surveyed, nearly two-thirds of active digital readers do so with whichever of their devices is their primary device.

Also, it’s not as if even active readers do their reading across multiple types of devices. Instead, the net number of active readers is close to the sum of readers using their PC, tablet, or smartphone.

No single device stands out universally as the digital publication reading favorite. PCs are a favored reading device in the US, UK, and Germany. In China and India, slightly more choose smartphones over PCs.

The image of magazine readers sprawling on their couches, kicking back with their iPads to catch up on a beautifully graphical long read, only represents a small part of the market. Tablet news-reading is only done by a few. Across the five countries surveyed, only around one in ten online adults use a tablet for such reading.

Part of this single preferred-device approach may be due to the inconsistencies between publications across platforms. While some publications design for a large-screen experience, others aim for the smaller screens of a smartphone. Yet others haven’t seemed to do much aiming or development, seemingly settling with exporting PDFs of their printed pages.

Using connected devices to read subscriptions has sagged in the last year. Across all the countries surveyed, regular readership rates have dropped. The reduction has been most pronounced in India and China, dropping from 85% of online adults to 71% in India, and 65% to 53% in China.

Service such as Apple’s recently announced Apple News + may help to change that. Making subscribing easier through a simplified app and bundled price may just raise the number of active digital readers, if not also subscription rates. Because Apple’s service was launched to only run on an iOS or MacOS devices, this a subset of the entire market. However, this subset is sizable. As of mid-2018, TUP finds that Apple has 100.3 million adults in the US actively are using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, which is 46% of all online US adults. This rate is similar among online adults in China (50%), and lower in the UK (44%), India (35%), and Germany (23%).

Apple’s customers are above-active readers. Among Apple’s customers, there is a higher rate of actively reading digital publications than among the general population. Half (50%) of users of any Apple iOS or MacOS device (iPhone, iPad, or Mac) in the US regularly use a connected device to read digital publications. Across the UK, Germany, China, and India, the pattern is the same: more of Apple’s users are active digital readers.

Looking ahead

Services like Apple News+ will likely be good for Apple and moreover good for Apple’s customers. Since Apple’s customers are already above-average readers, we expect subscriptions to be strong. In addition to the revenue flow to Apple and publishers, it could help deepen the connection and loyalty Apple’s users have with its other offerings – services and devices alike.

On first glance, services like Apple News+ may not seem attractive to publishers. If they view their TAM as only around half to a quarter of online users (Apple’s current foot print is 50% in China, 46% in the US, 44% in the UK, 35% in India, and 23% in Germany) this might seem like a glass-half-empty approach. Were Apple enable Apple News+ to more platforms beyond iOS and MacOS, the next-largest active-reader platforms are Windows PCs and Android smartphones. While this would likely entice more publishers, it might threaten Apple’s exclusive experience within its platforms. Also, for these platforms, Apple may need to make extra efforts to fulfill its promise of subscriber privacy.

However, to the extent publishers consider such a service as bonus readership, this may entice them and others to join. Apple’s customer base continues to have a higher than average socioeconomic profile.

And, as Apple continues to roll out additional subscription services such as movies and TV, many customers will likely expand and deepen their connections and loyalty to Apple. Also, we expect more readers to return to reading as they discover the digital experience to be more enjoyable and straightforward.

About this TUPdate

The analysis in this TUPdate is based on results drawn from the most-recent wave of TUP (Technology User Profile), the 2018 edition which is TUP’s 36th continuous wave. This survey-based study details the use of technology products by a carefully-selected and weighted set of respondents drawn to represent online adults. This specific wave spanned the US, UK, Germany, India, and China. In the TUP survey, we identified the connected devices being actively used, from desktop tower PCs, to all-in-one, notebook, and convertible PC form factors, to tablets, smartphones and basic feature phones. For the four devices used most often, we asked respondents to choose from among 71 activities that they do most regularly with each device.

Current TUP subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.

How and Where PCs and Tablets Are Used Differently Than Smartphones [TUPdate]

People love their Smartphones and find more to do with them than PCs or Tablets. Around the world, there are few activities done with PCs as regularly as are done with Smartphones. Furthermore, there are no activities done more so on Tablets than on either Smartphones or PCs. Usage profiles vary somewhat by country. Online adults in the U.S. use their connected devices differently than users in many other countries.

These findings are based on the TUP/Technology User Profile 2018 study of 14,273 online adults in the US, UK, Germany, India, and China. Of the more-than 70 activities in the TUP survey tied to each device, we identified those with the widest range of regular use across devices – defined as the difference between the maximum and minimum usage level between Smartphone, PC, and Tablet users.

MetaFacts TUPdate 1901 18GL Activities Preferred By Each Form 190111_0843

The versatility of smartphones is shown by how much more often they’re the device of choice for nearly every type of activity, from shopping to social networking and fun. The range of activity use is as high as 65% – in the case of making and receiving personal phone calls.

Smartphones are being used the most widely for device-unique activities. The four major activities for smartphones – personal phone calls, taking pictures, text messaging, and storing one’s contacts – are infrequently done on a PC or Tablet. Although the newest tablets have cameras that approach the quality of those on Smartphones, less than a quarter (22%) are being used to take pictures. Also, despite being able to run apps such as WhatsApp or WeChat on Tablets or PCs, phone calls are primarily on Smartphones, even while personal video calls have made inroads on non-phone devices.

PCs are mostly being used for email (personal or work), online shopping (bigger screens entice buyers), and online banking. Tablets are mostly being used for social networking and music listening.

There is a small amount of crossover of activity usage across devices. Two of the major activities for Smartphones are also leading ones on Tablets – adding photos to social media and commenting on other’s images or comments.

American adults use their devices somewhat differently than users in other countries. In addition to personal and work email, PCs are used more often than Smartphones or Tablets for shopping, banking, finances/accounting, and writing.

Tablets are being used more like PCs than Smartphones. The major activities for Tablets, although with smaller percentages than PCs, are also among the major activities for PCs. Also, in the US, UK, and Germany, Tablets are used more often than either PCs or Smartphones for reading a book and making small purchases in person, such as in a coffee shop.

Where PCs Dominate
Smartphones aren’t the only connected device users actively use. There are many activities used at a higher rate on PCs than on Smartphones are tablets. Sending and checking both personal and work email are high on the list across all of the countries surveyed except for India. Also, writing and managing text documents is a PC-preferred activity except in India. In Germany, writing documents is an especially PC-dominant activity. Also, activities relating to using a printer are strongest when using a PC.

Looking ahead

Habits change slowly. Not only do people find effective ways to use connected devices to do what they want, they also show inertia when slowly moving those activities to a different device. Even those users who have multiple devices continue to use the types of devices they had previously for some time before fully embracing a type of device new to them.

Furthermore, there isn’t a single “silver bullet” device that’s preferred for all activities. For some activities, such as reading a book, shopping, or watching television, having a larger display helps. For other activities, such as receiving phone calls or texting, convenience and mobility are key.

We don’t expect the majority of users to concentrate all of their activities on a single device in the near future. Instead, the multi-device experience will continue. PCs may continue to lose their dominance for the many activities they still dominate. Dedicated PC users may just move more of their attention to tablets, especially those focused on passive activities such as social networking or television watching.

About this TUPdate

The analysis in this TUPdate is based on results drawn from the most-recent wave of TUP (Technology User Profile), the 2018 edition which is TUP’s 36th continuous wave. This survey-based study details the use of technology products by a carefully-selected and weighted set of respondents drawn to represent online adults. This specific wave spanned the US, UK, Germany, India, and China. From the installed base we focused in on online adults and how they use a Smartphone, PC, or Tablet.


Current TUP subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.

Google+ … Reversing the Polarity? [TUPdate]

This week, Google announced they’ll be pulling the plug on the consumer-facing Google+, although after unreported widening abandonment. Google’s social network rocket never quite left orbit and was already on its way down. Although the decision was partly portrayed as protecting user’s privacy, recently a substantial number of Google+ users had already abandoned the platform.

In the last year, a substantial number of Google+ users stopped returning. This is based on the results of our independent survey, TUP (Technology User Profile), conducted continuously since 1983. From mid-2014 through mid-2017, Google+ had continued its steady, but stagnant, usage patterns. During that time, the number of active US adult users hovered between 41.7 and 48.6 million. Even before Google announced the closure of Google+, we found in our most recent wave of TUP, fielded mid-year 2018, that the number of Google+ users had dropped nearly in half, to 25.2 million users.

The final Google+ hangers-on form a unique profile, especially for the sites they frequent. They are three times more likely than the average online adult to be active on MySpace, and twice as likely to be using Viber, Reddit, Imgur, or Tumblr.

Demographically, usage levels plummeted simultaneously for all age and gender groups. At one peak point in 2015, 43% of online males age 25 to 34 were using Google+. By 2018, that plummeted to 14%.

Remaining users are not from any particular gender or age group, as all have penetration rates in the teens.

Looking ahead

Even though Google’s announcement hinted they may refocus Google+ on enterprise users, these are also few in number. In fact, a higher-than-average share of remaining Google+ users are unemployed or employed part-time.

Google’s sunsetting may discourage the remaining loyalists, affecting use of other Google products and services. For example, Google+ users are twice as likely as any other online American to be using Google Nexus Player, and Google Chromecast. And, in China and India, Google+ adult users have an above average share of using Google TV and Google Nexus Player. Furthermore, in India, Google+ users actively use an average of 1.64 Google devices, including Smartphones and Tablets.

If the transition is managed well, Google’s attempt to reverse the polarity of a negative to a positive may avoid inadvertently changing Google+ to Google minus.


This post includes a complimentary brief summary of recent MetaFacts TUP (Technology User Profile) research results. These results are based on results of the MetaFacts Technology User Profile survey, from TUP 2018, its 36th consecutive wave, as well as previous waves. Comparable results are available through TUP fielded in Europe and Asia. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.