Crossing Over: Mobile Rivals Desktop Internet

  • by January 2, 2013

The notion of the mobile “crossover” has been avidly discussed throughout 2012. That moment in time when mobile Web traffic surpasses the desktop Internet, and the development of mobile experiences becomes priority one for publishers and ecommerce players across the digital landscape.

This “big moment” is a bit of a fantasy. The crossover has been slowly happening before our eyes, and the tipping point may have already passed.

In truth, it’s to be expected at this moment in time: Suddenly we have more than a dozen tablets to choose from, a surge in affordable smartphones and drastic improvements to network technologies.

More and more, users have been able to adopt the hardware, so the usage numbers are a hockey stick. As a result, major media players are seeing huge leaps in traffic to their mobile properties, in some cases, far surpassing the volumes of PC traffic, with numbers steadily shifting to the mobile side.

With the introduction of comScore’s new multiplatform report, it’s clear that many media companies providing services and on-demand information, such as Pandora and Groupon, have already crossed over.



Real-time information sources—from WeatherBug to Yelp to ESPN—appear poised to join them in the coming months, with mobile audiences inching ever closer to 50% of their total traffic.

E! Latino, the app from NBC Universal that hit the market this week, and sister property to the wildly popular E! Online, doesn’t even have a destination for the desktop Web yet. NBCU conceptualized, built and launched the property with the mobile platform as the helm, a signifier that “mobile first” isn’t a forthcoming prediction, but a reality in which we’ve already arrived.

The impact of the crossover phenomenon on monetization and advertising has been at the center of numerous conversations. Marketing dollars have been slow to make their way to mobile platforms, despite the skyrocketing consumer time spent and a growth curve substantially steeper than that of the Internet.

But even in the last few weeks, the indicators of the coming impact have started to change: Mobile ad spend forecasts, revised and re-released by eMarketer this month, are now in excess of $4 billion for 2012—a 53% increase from just a few months ago. While there is still a drastic variance between consumer time spent and the volume of ad spend, the validation and recognition from marketers has been climbing much more rapidly than previously thought.

While it’s unlikely that overall mobile ad spend will ever be proportionate to time spent or surpass (crossover?) the volumes of ad dollars allocated online, it is looking more likely that video spend specifically could do that. According to eMarketer, mobile video spend is projected to increase at more than twice the rate of online video spend through 2014, priming a curve that if even moderately maintained, could render mobile video budgets bigger than those for online video in just a few short years—or sooner.

Aside from the benefit of an audience growing at an unprecedented rate, mobile video has proven to be vastly more effective than its online counterpart.

Full screen experiences, lower instances of distracted viewers (or multitaskers), and a balanced volume of ads throughout the day have been contributors to its success as a medium for brand marketers. Another facet of “crossing over” may emerge as better infrastructure is engineered for data collection, tracking and measurement.

The technologies that we’ve taken for granted in the online world have proven to be unwieldy and incompatible with mobile. But the head start they’ve provided, in tandem with large strides in standardization, mean mobile may end up with a foundation for ad effectiveness that rivals what we’ve created online.

1 comment about "Crossing Over: Mobile Rivals Desktop Internet".
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  1. mike boland from BIA/Kelsey, January 3, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.

    Lots of good points here. It's important to distinguish different usage metrics in mobile vs. desktop. There's users (headcount), then there's usage (page views, search volume, etc.).

    The latter is a more fitting indicator of mobile's content and ad delivery opportunities. And still there's lots of ways to slice that. In one of those areas - local search - BIA/Kelsey has already predicted that query volume in mobile will surpass that of desktop by 2015 (link below).

    And we continue to update the figures in what is a nascent and rapidly evolving space. Stay tuned and thanks for a good article.

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