Both the number of people who use tablets and usage per tablet user are exploding. But tablet users' appetite for paid apps isn't following the trend.
A new study commissioned by the Online Publishers Association found that 54% of tablet users prefer free, ad-supported apps over paid ones, up from 40% a year ago.
At the same time, just 19% of users say they prefer to pay more for apps with no ads, down from 30% last year.
The year-over-year shifts could seem frightening to those publishers banking exclusively on paid apps, but most tablet app publishers don't need to worry, according to Pam Horan, president of the OPA. "I don't think it's a scary trend because obviously advertising is the most significant revenue stream for publishers," she said.
The majority of tablet users -- 61% -- have purchased some type of content on their devices, whether it be a movie, book or news subscription, according to the study. Of those people, 39% have bought either a magazine subscription or a single issue of a magazine in the last 12 months, and 15% have bought a newspaper subscription.
Tablet users spent an average of $359 on all purchases via their tablet in the last 12 months, including content, clothes, food and other non-content purchases. And 54% of those who have bought content say they have made a purchase as a result of seeing a tablet ad, compared to 38% for those who haven't paid for any content.
"The numbers show that these audiences have an appetite for advertising," Ms. Horan said. "Now it's time to take advantage of it with the capabilities the platform offers, not just transferring print ads to the tablet."