Mobile Surge Continues For Top Sites

For the largest Web publishers, the mobile migration isn’t slowing down. Almost a year after comScore introduced a service highlighting traffic across mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and the desktop, the latest figures show mobile growth continues to surge.
While desktop traffic has remained roughly flat or fallen for many of the top online properties from a year ago, the mobile-only audience is surging -- typically adding a third or more to their total digital audience size. (For mobile, comScore includes both mobile Web and app activity on the iOS and Android platforms).
Among the properties with the biggest incremental gains from mobile as of January were Pandora, with a 272% audience boost from people accessing the online music service via devices. Of its overall U.S. digital audience of 80 million, 58.7 million are mobile-only.
Pandora is a bit of an outlier in that respect, but a range of other sites that have seen strong gains in total audience from mobile include Target (102%), Disney Online (101%), Apple (97%), Twitter (77%), ESPN (70%) and The New York Times (58%).
“What a lot of publishers may not realize is that their first point of access, and in some cases the only point of access, is mobile,” noted Andrew Lipsman, vice president, marketing and insights at comScore. “So if you’re not designing for that, you’re potentially missing out on a really important driver of traffic, advertising and commerce.”
Among the top 50 Web properties, the firm estimates mobile-only users on average make up 30% to 40% of a publisher’s audience. Facebook’s purely mobile audience, for instance, makes up about 32% of its digital audience of 191 million. While its desktop audience has remained flat at 145 million in the last year, those mobile users have added another 26% to its total audience.
Facebook and Pandora are among the few properties where monetization has rapidly followed users to the mobile site in the last year. In the fourth quarter of 2013, Facebook said mobile advertising accounted for 53% of its total ad revenue. For Pandora, mobile made up 72% of its ad sales of 162 million in the quarter.
Others are starting to catch up. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress this week, Joff Redfern, LinkedIn’s vice president of mobile product, said 41% of the company’s traffic is now coming through mobile. He noted that the in-stream Sponsored Update ad units the company introduced in mid-2013 now account for 13% of ad sales. And two-thirds of that amount is coming from mobile.
The vast majority of mobile usage for LinkedIn and other sites is through apps, which make up about 80% of mobile time spent. Time spent on mobile devices across apps and the mobile Web surpassed that on the desktop a year ago.
By the end of 2013, time spent in smartphone and tablets apps alone outpaced monthly desktop minutes by 21%. Now, time spent just with smartphone apps is closing in on that on PCs, at 405 billion total minutes to 424.6 billion minutes, as of January, according to comScore. Even so, “with the exception of a few sectors like maps or weather…the desktop traffic for the most part is holding up,” said Lipsman. “The reality is people are spending a lot more overall screen time. As the dollars shift toward equilibrium, there will be more overall marketing dollars going toward digital.”
Among the current ranking of top 50 properties to see a decline in their total digital audience despite mobile traffic gains were Viacom Digital, down 27% to 51 million, and Adobe, falling 17% to 48 million.
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