The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) released a important new report this week, Understanding the Participatory News Consumer. It presents many insights on how Americans stay informed, and highlights the fact that many of us are already accessing news on our mobile phones.

For those considering producing news for mobile phones, or debating whether or not to venture in the news-on-the-go space, here are the key points from the extensive report.

Mobile News Spreads

A quarter of all American adults are reading news content on their mobile phones. This is only likely to grow, and hopefully it will convince news organizations to offer their content to mobile users. The report notes that, “some 80% of American adults surveyed own cell phones; 37% of them go online on their phones. Out of those who have mobile internet, 88% get some form of news on their cell phones. This is 33% of adult cell phone owners, and 26% of the general population.”

On-the-go news consumers — meaning those reading news on their mobiles — are highly active on their mobile phones. They use social media services, send text messages, take pictures and instant message, among other activities. Mobile news producers should consider facilitating some of these other activities on their platforms in order to engage these savvy news consumers. From the report:

Not surprisingly, on-the-go news consumers maximize their cell phone use. They are 67% more likely than other cell phone users to text message, more than twice as likely to take pictures with their phones, and four times as likely to use their phones to instant message. They are also especially heavy internet users—80% of this on-the-go group are online on a given day, compared with just 67% of other internet users—and they engage in activities such as blogging (20% v. 11%), using social networking sites (73% v. 48%), and using status update sites like Twitter (29% v. 14%) at significantly higher rates than other internet users.

Users are increasingly using multiple platforms to get their news. Among the general population, consumers are using multiple platforms, such as newspapers, television, radio, internet, and mobile phones to get news content. On-the-go consumers use a variety of news sources online, with 16 percent saying they regularly access more than six news websites for news and information. This shows there is demand for mobile content, and that mobile news production will be highly competitive. From the report:

When asked about their routines for getting news on a typical day, and specifically which news platforms individuals turn to daily, the results are striking. Almost all American adults (99%) say that on a typical day, they get news from at least one news platform (local or national newspapers, local or national television news broadcasts, radio, or the internet), including 92% who follow the news on multiple platforms on a typical day. Some 46% of Americans use between four and six of the media platforms cited in the bullets above on any given day. Another 46% use two or three platforms and 7% use just one platform. The notion that people have a primary news source, one place where they go for most of their news, in other words, is increasingly obsolete.

Users increasingly share, comment on, and contribute to news and reporting. On-the-go news consumers are especially active on social networking platforms, and are more likely than others to participate in news production and dissemination. As a result, the development of interactive content — along with the creation of tools that allow users to easily share content — should be foremost in the mind of mobile news producers.

From the report:

Of those who get news online, 75% got news forwarded to them through email or posts on social networking sites. Of the same users, 50% sent they passed along email links to news stories or video content. In particular, on-the-go news consumers and close followers of news were much more likely to send links in their emails than online news consumers in general. 28% of internet users were also found to have customized their browser home page to include favorite sources of news. 36% of internet users said that having interactive content like charts, quizzes, graphics, and maps they could manipulate themselves was an important part of choosing which news websites they visited. Some 37% of internet users have actively contributed to the creation, commentary, or dissemination of news. This number includes users commenting on blogs and news sites, posting links and thoughts about news on social media, tagging or categorizing content online, or contributing opinion or multimedia content to news sites.

Other Mobile Studies

This survey comes on the heels of a FCC broadband survey that cataloged U.S. consumers’ use of mobile technology. While that survey was not focused on news consumption, it showed that 86 percent of American adults own cell phones, and 30 percent of cell phone owners use the mobile web.

Another survey, the Mobile Intent Index from PR agency Rudder Finn, found that 60 percent of mobile web users are using news websites, and 95 percent of mobile web users use their mobile phones to “keep informed.”

Unfortunately, all three of these surveys are only relevent to the U.S. International data is harder to get a hold of, although the soon-to-launch Audiencescapes project holds much promise. The project is being developed by InterMedia, a non-profit research, evaluation and consulting organization. It will present data showing to what extent individuals in countries around the world have access to and use communication technologies and how they consume media. For the impatient, a beta version is currently available.