The average amount of time spent per day on mobile devices has grown faster in the last two years than time spent using any other medium, according to new research findings from eMarketer. The 32-minute average in 2008 has increased more than 50% to 50 minutes in 2010 -- equal the average time spent reading newspapers and magazines, combined.
That ranks mobile fourth behind TV and video, at 4.5 hours a day; the Internet, 2.5 hours; and radio, 98 minutes. If time spent on mobile continues to climb at least the 28% rate of 2010, it would surpass radio at its current average in a few years. Mobile vendors and publishers may be tempted to cite the growth in time spent to try to convince marketers to boost money spent on mobile as well.
Internet companies have long complained the Web doesn't receive a share of media dollars equivalent to the share of time people spend online. Now mobile companies may start doing the same, suggesting the medium deserves more dollars than newspapers or magazines based on people spending more time on mobile than with print media.
However, the eMarketer time-spent figure for mobile includes time spent talking as well as on mobile media -- everything from texting to Web browsing to watching video. That makes it harder to make an apples-to-apples comparison with other media. And just looking at one category within mobile, say, video, shows how wide the disparity is -- not just in time spent, but in audience.
In the U.S., the average time spent watching mobile video is about 3.5 hours a month among an audience of about 22 million -- a 44% increase in mobile viewership from a year ago, according to recent Nielsen data. Still, compare that to the monthly average of 143 hours per person for TV, with an audience of 287 million, as of mid-2010.
What's more, there's always the long lag in ad spending between new and old media as marketers catch up with changes in consumer habits and adapt to new ways of doing business. Consider the well-documented collapse of the traditional newspaper industry as more ad dollars have shifted to digital media in recent years. Even so, it will still be two more years before online ad spending overtakes newspaper ad spending -- which brought in $117 billion worldwide in 2013, according to a Magna Global forecast earlier this month.
The Magna report estimates mobile ad revenue globally at $2.7 billion in 2010, growing to $6.6 billion in five years. By then, with the proliferation of more sophisticated devices and upgraded wireless networks, people will be spending a good deal more time with mobile media. But don't count on anything like an equivalent share of ad dollars flowing to the segment anytime soon.