Guess what? Mobile is still big… And getting bigger. The annual report from Kleiner Perkins analyst Mary Meeker is for Internet geeks what the holiday Sears catalog was for kids in the last century. “The Meeker Report is here; the Meeker Report is here,” the digerati scream. And it lands with about the same weight.
This time Meeker has it down to under 120 slides, which is downright spartan for her. But this is the woman who a number of years ago was among the first to blow the trumpet of mobile in a way that shook up the industry and made everyone notice that a sea change was about to happen. She has earned everyone’s attention.
And in the massive deck she dropped onto the D11 conference this week, mobile once again is featured -- but with some interesting wrinkles that are worth exploring. She notes once again the enormous gap between the 12% of media time spent on phones compared to the 3% of ad spending in 2012. That famous monetization gap remains enormous for mobile.
The explosion in user-generated content that is coming from smartphones -- especially multimedia -- is attracting Meeker’s attention of late. She notes that the amount of digital information that is being created and shared grew nine times in five years just through 2011. But the introduction of mobile devices and their ubiquitous sharing tools will see this rate of creation and sharing escalate remarkably.
Uploaded photos have already become a staple of most users, but the real growth areas will be in uploading video, which Meeker sees moving very quickly. Also important is the uploading of personal data, which is going to become even more powerful as fitness devices and wearable computing come into play.
When it comes to images, the short-form and short-lived media will be a place to watch. She looks at Snapchat, for instance, where the content disappears shortly after it is posted and is shared, and sees it moving from about 20 million photos a day back in October 2 about 150 million photos a day today. She notes a similar growth path in Twitter's recently introduced Vine app, which makes six-second videos. In just three months in the market, Vine penetrated more than 7% of total U.S. iPhone monthly active users.
Users uploading data about themselves and their own behaviors is one of the biggest and most important trends, she observes. Fitness apps and devices, review sites like Yelp, and even traffic monitors like Waze are seeing incredible growth in the last year. The fact that a company like Waze has 48 million users tracking over 1,000,000,000 miles a month suggests how much people are starting to think about their data not so much as a commodity but almost as a shared base of knowledge.
One of the most fascinating slides in Meeker’s deck comes from the Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange. It found that the U.S. is actually far below the world average of people who say they share everything or most things online. Only 15% of Americans answer affirmatively to that question, compared to a world average of 24% and countries like Saudi Arabia, India and Indonesia, all of which seem much more open to digital sharing.
As a share of overall Internet traffic, the tectonic shift that Meeker first detected years ago continues at an accelerated pace. Mobile traffic comprises 15% of all online activity now, and should reach about a third of activity by the end of 2014. But the impact on certain segments has been much more dramatic. For instance, the share of transactions for Groupon coming from mobile devices has moved from less than 15% two years ago to 45% at the beginning of this year.
At Facebook, 68% of its users are now accessing the service on mobile. While mobile still only represents 30% of Facebook’s ad revenue, the shift is occurring pretty rapidly. The average revenue per mobile user is now up to about two dollars compared to less than four dollars from the desktop user.
But just as we are getting hold of smartphone markets, and adjusting to the disruption that tablets are bringing to the desktop and laptop world, along comes wearable computing. This is Meeker’s next big future call. She suggests that we may be entering the next 10-year cycle of computing that will involve devices with sensors that are not necessarily working with touch interaction. Citing a study of how many times people check their phones for a variety of kinds of information, she argues that there are about 150 times a day that we could be getting the updates we want from some sort of hands-free or wearable device
If there is an overall theme to Meeker’s presentation this year, it is that the most powerful and interesting flow of data and content over the next decade will be coming from users and their mobile phones as opposed to going to the phones. In other words, the most fascinating and perhaps lucrative media is now coming from the masses rather than going to them.
Any marketer still slavishly devoted to the mass media model of impression-based advertising must take this very simple shift very seriously. Enabling, facilitating, enhancing, enriching, ennobling, directing, amplifying -- not interrupting -- the user's media is the name of the game. Mobile devices didn’t invent this shift, but they accelerated the living hell out of it.