Mobile: What the Web Should Have Been?

Remember when we used to talk about how mobile media was all about "drive-by" content and "snackable" experiences? We don't hear that so much anymore -- perhaps because the media themselves are surprised by the unusual amount of time that people spend on their cell phones consuming content.

At yesterday's OMMA Publish show in New York, I led a panel of some of the media companies most involved in developing apps for mobile devices. What I wanted first and foremost were some hard metrics about the kind of usage they actually see in their apps, and how this compares to what they see on the Web.

The numbers were surprising. Cameron Clayton, vice president of mobile for The Weather Channel, told us that on the feature phones on which a channel app has been available since the early 2000s, behavior is similar to that on the Web -- about 11 sessions per month per user. On the iPhone, however, that number goes up to 33 sessions a month, with 20% of users actually checking the app 16 times a day or more. The Weather Channel iPhone app alone has attracted 12.5 million downloads and generates 5.6 million uniques a month and tens of million in revenue, just from that one platform.

Users of the iPad Weather Channel app demonstrate different behaviors from those using the iPhone app. On iPad it is all about the weekend, Cameron says. There's a 3x and 4x spike in usage on these days -- and even here the number of monthly sessions are well above the Web site's.

The most stroking metrics came from Conde Nast's Rick Levine, who told us that the iPhone version of GQ magazine is seeing almost the same levels of monthly engagement (65-70 minutes) as the print magazine (80 minutes). Compare those numbers to GQ.com, which gets a measly 10 minutes a month.

Gail Clickman Horwood, executive vice president, digital programming & strategy, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, said that of the 105,000 downloads of the company's Everyday Food app, 40% have synched up their account with the Web in order to move shopping lists to their phone, and 84% have elected to get event reminders.

In short, if publishers suddenly seem to have gotten wildly enthusiastic about mobile and its prospects for their bottom lines, it's because their own early metrics suggest that they are seeing levels of engagement here that they lost when moving their brand to the Web.

I would urge you to see the full panel video. In the second half, several members suggest ambivalence over the iAd model for major media brands -- and almost everyone seems determined to stick to their guns on maintaining premium pricing for mobile content.

Tags: apps, mobile
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4 comments about "Mobile: What the Web Should Have Been?".
  1. Brian Hayashi from ConnectMe 360 , June 17, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.

    Nice post. However, the link to the uStream video is broken - maybe a missing digit in the page ID?

  2. Steve Smith from Mediapost , June 17, 2010 at 4:25 p.m.

    The original link appears broken. I will try to get it fixed.

    Meanwhile, try this

    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/7701382

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 17, 2010 at 5:36 p.m.

    20% of the Weather Channel app users check the weather 16 times per day? If this is really true, then it is also true that too many people do not have enough to do (or there are more schizos than acknowledged). But this seems rather extreme.

  4. Pamela Tournier from Focus: Productivity, Inc. , June 17, 2010 at 6:38 p.m.

    Time spent does not necessarily mean "engagement." How much of that time was actually spent dealing with the slow load times, crashes and broken links that pervade the mobile web experience? A recent Gomez study reports that 2/3 of mobile web users report frustrations, slow connectivity being #1 problem. 20% of iPhone users check weather 16 times a day??? Given AT&T's notoriously poor performance, are you sure they didn't drop the connection 15x or so?