Index Benchmarks Daily Supply Of Digital Uniques: Finds Holidays, Not News, Make A Cyber Difference

In a finding that reinforces a Norman Rockwell view of Thanksgiving, Americans did disconnect from the Web during this year’s gatherings -- sort of. While the overall supply of Americans connected to digital media dipped 7% on Thanksgiving Day, the number that remained connected via their mobile devices declined only 3%.

The data, which comes from a new daily index on the supply of digital users being introduced today by MediaPost and Jumpshot, reveals some surprising and not-so-surprising patterns on the reach, time spent and amount of content consumed by U.S. consumers day-to-day and over broad swaths of time.

The index, which is drawn from a 115-million user base, was set at 100 on Jan. 1 2015, and reports the daily volume changes in the supply of unique U.S. users across mobile, desktop and a combined digital universe -- as well as their time spent, the number of pages accessed and the amount of time per page accessed. The index, which Jumpshot dubbed the Digital Traffic Index, can be accessed continually here, and can be viewed in increments ranging from one day to one year.

MediaPost developed it with Jumpshot in an effort to provide an industry benchmark for thinking about the supply of users that advertisers, agencies and trading desks bid for in private and open markets daily, over the course of their campaigns. It is part of an ongoing effort by MediaPost to work with the best industry sources to provide indexes, composites and industry benchmarks with a more rational, markets-like approach to media trading, emulating -- if not replicating -- Wall Street-like market indexes.

They range from the RTB 500 -- a genuine market composite, based on Wall Street’s S&P 500 -- to a variety of volume, price and demand-based indexes, including ones launched with Standard Media Index, SQAD, and others in recent months. The indexes are powered by the best sources of data MediaPost could partner with, and they are open to anyone to use as industry benchmarks.

The Digital Traffic Index grew out of conversations with agencies and trading desks noting that they didn’t have a concrete universe estimate for benchmarking the supply of unique users they base their programmatic buys on, and the reach and frequency strategies that inform them.

MediaPost publications plan to use the data to report on market trends -- including the supply and demand of digital uniques -- and we welcome industry analysts to step forward and provide their own insights and market observations.

So far this year, the overall pattern of the supply of unique users has been remarkably constant, with the major variances occurring based on days of week, especially as users shift from desktop to mobile for obvious proximity and lifestyle reasons.

The overall supply of digital uniques spikes early in the business week, and ebbs going into and throughout the weekend. This pattern is especially true of desktop Web uniques, but the inverse tends to happen among mobile uniques, when weekend and holiday usage actually spikes.

While the supply of mobile uniques didn’t spike above recent norms on Thanksgiving Day, the data reveals that Americans were sneaking peeks at their handheld screens if not actually at the banquet table, then at some point during the day. While the supply of mobile uniques dipped slightly on Thanksgiving Day, the time that mobile users spent online indexed +48%.

Interestingly, major news events like the Paris terrorist attacks do not generate spikes on unique digital users. The main factors driving uniques are likely more a function of day of week, time of day and proximity issues. According to Jumpshot’s analysts, this is because the overall volume of unique users constantly online -- via desktop or mobile -- is so high, major news events do not attract more uniques, although news likely influences their Web-surfing behaviors in terms of destinations and pages viewed.

“Specific to the Paris events on Nov. 13, the data showed a consistent Friday drop of traffic before heading into the weekend,” explains Randy Antin, vice president at Jumpshot, adding: “My best guess here is that people are online anyway -- our plugged-in lifestyles means that we are all connected -- all the time. Major news events might cause people to visit certain sites more often, but it doesn't make more people go online in the first place. We're there already.”

Asked to analyze the most recent 30 days of digital media activity at a granular level, Antin confirms overall usage levels "index very consistently, regardless of large news events." Overall, he says, the supply of digital unique users peaks in the “120-124” index range and dips into the “76-78” index range based on day of week.

While news events don’t spur people to digital media, per se, deals apparently do -- especially for desktop consumers. The supply of total digital uniques on Nov. 30, Cyber Monday, surged at an index of nearly 111, but most of that came from desktop browsers. While mobile uniques were near 100, the desktop unique user base indexed at 123 on Cyber Monday.

But the real effect of Cyber Monday wasn’t just in the supply of digital unique users, but their behavior.

Says Jumpshot Vice President-Data Science and Finance Hong Tsui: “People spent more time on the Web (by 11%) and looked at more pages (by 13%) on that day.”

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