The fast growth of tablet use has changed news consumption radically. That is the conclusion drawn from the sixth edition of GfK’s study, “Trends in Digital Media.”

In December 2013, the majority of the Dutch population owned a tablet. And one in three people uses this device for news, several times a week. Other trends that accelerate digital news consumption are the widespread use of news alerts and the confrontation with news items on social media.

With the rapid growth of tablet ownership (with an average news consumption of one hour per week), news consumption has developed into a multi-media activity; cross-media publishing has become the standard.

The majority of the Dutch use both news print and online news. The group that uses only newsprint has shrunk to 20%.

Remarkably, digital-only news consumption is even smaller: only 15%. The old assumption that digital news cannibalises newsprint is no longer valid. With their entire portfolio, news brands serve 90% of the Dutch population, far bigger than in print’s glory days.

Tablets, news alerts, and social media: We can thank the tablet for the largest growth of news reading. In one year’s time, there were 2.5 million new users. Total ownership has grown to 6.8 million people, with 4 million of them using their devices for news.

In addition to this trend, two other developments have boosted digital reading:

  1. The widespread use of news alerts and social media for smartphone and tablets. More than 25% of news followers receive “breaking news” alerts.

  2. One-third of news consumers receive news from trusted news brands via Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms.

Drivers for digital news: Digital news is no substitution for the printed newspaper. The arrival of new media channels does not mean the departure of older media; in general, there is a re-positioning of media channels.

In a population of 14 million, 12.5 million still read their printed edition — 8.2 million on a daily basis.

Digital news channels fulfill other needs than print does. If editorial signature is a dominant factor for the printed edition, in digital channels there are other drivers.

The GfK study learned that, in the digital field, fast and affordable applications have priority, as well as the usability of apps and news sites. Speed and navigation play a key role for digital sources.

24/7: That different media channels meet different needs is also shown in the use of news media throughout the day. News brands are playing a 24/7 role in the life of the news follower (see graph below).

In the morning, print is king — a position that is taken over by news sites and smartphones in the afternoon. In the evening, these channels are swapped for news on the tablet. Also, a lot of news travels to readers via social media.

Conclusion: What can we learn from this “breaking news” on cross-media news consumption? Well, an obvious conclusion is that mixed news media consumption has become the standard.

The vast majority of consumers use more channels to get the news, on average through three media channels. The popular mobile apps have accelerated this trend.

On the other hand, print still will play a major role, as it meets demands other than news apps and news sites, where usability, speed, and navigation set the standard.

The modern reader leaves no stone unturned when it comes to staying informed, with print in the morning, apps and sites in the afternoon, and more and more news through social media.

The challenge is to hit the right touchpoint at the right time for the right customers: a fast game for media owners who are able to play on different chess boards.

May the best news brand win.