Mobile Takes The Digital Lead As Online Surpasses TV

The headline from eMarketer this morning was that time spent on digital media was on track to surpass TV this year for the first time. But the real story within the story is that mobile is leading that charge.

According to the research company’s projections, of the 5 hours and 9 seconds that people spend daily online (vs. 4:31 with TV), 2:21 will be with smartphones and tablets, while 2:19 will be with desktops and laptops. This is the first time that eMarketer has broken out mobile in detail in their media mindshare projections, and it shows just how much impact mobility has had on migration away from the desktop as well as the inflation of overall digital engagement.

The amount of time spent with mobile media has gone up dramatically in just the last year, eMarketer contends. In 2012, we were spending about an hour and a half a day with media on portable devices, showing an increase of almost an hour in just a year’s time. eMarketer is measuring simultaneous use as well, so in overall and overlapping media usage we are seeing a steady expansion of media consumption -- now at 11:52 per day, up from 11:39 last year and 10:46 in 2010. Mobile has been the key driver in that expansion, consuming less than half an hour of our media time only three years ago. Granted, including tablets in the “mobile” mix muddies the view a bit, since these devices tend to behave more like laptop replacements. Still the migration is staggering.

eMarketer has broken down the mobile category into smartphone, tablet and feature phone. In all, they are looking only at non-voice media consumption. For the mobile use category, however, smartphones and tablets are about even, with the former at 1:07 per day and the latter at 1:03. It is increasingly important for “mobile” to be broken down this way as the platforms mature.

One of the ironic negative consequences of the mobile migration is the tendency to begin thinking of devices as an extension of the Web -- platforms where you simply can “reach” users in new nooks and crannies of their existence. Getting marketing closer to the point of sale is the particular preoccupation of mobile marketers, and for obvious reasons. Somehow lost in the mad rush to the new platform is the unique power of mobile as an activation of other media. Understanding the use cases and physical contexts of these portable screens is especially important in the process of integrating them with the rest of the media plan.

The big losers in all of this, of course, have been print. TV has only seen an incremental decline of a few seconds a day over the past two years. Time spent with print each day has declined overall from 50 seconds to 32. Attempts by newspapers and magazines to recapture on devices some of that lost attention have been mixed. Magazines in particular had hoped that digital editions of their print wares would help save them from the diffusion of attention that had occurred in the first migration to digital. Many magazines traditionally enjoyed monthly time spent rates of an hour or more per issue, which digital literally decimated -- often down to 10 or 15 minutes a month with branded magazine sites. Initially, publishers were seeing people spend almost as much time with digital editions of magazines as they did with print versions, which justified the large investment in tablet versions.

But consumer uptake of digital versions of magazines has been slower than hoped. In some sense, the magazines are caught between legacy and new platforms here. They want to preserve in virtual form that slow and engaging page-flipping ethos of traditional reading. But the monthly issue drops and ghetto-ized newsstand merchandising structure on tablets misses out on much of the opportunity of digital media.

We are beginning to see some innovations now from titles like Esquire and Atlantic (which launched weekly tablet editions) and New York, which has an interesting hybrid app combining magazine and Web site content. But the struggles here are indicative of a larger lesson of mobile migration. These devices -- and the mobility and portability they embody -- require a rethinking even of the digital forms we have been cultivating on a Web that spent 15 years anchored to desktops.

5 comments about "Mobile Takes The Digital Lead As Online Surpasses TV".
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  1. Steve Smith from Mediapost, August 1, 2013 at 5:06 p.m.

    Paula, the problem with asking a question like that on a survey is that no one could trust the honesty of the answer.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, August 1, 2013 at 6:15 p.m.

    Steve, I think we could trust the honesty or the answer but not the accuracy. It would be a good 'directional' question though (maybe 0-25%, 25-50%, 50-75%, 75-100%). Also let's not forget that duration does not equate to engagement (gees sleep would be a good medium to get into ... ads projected onto the back of your eyelids ... hands off Google I thought of it first!).

  3. Erika Alonso from Mojiva, September 3, 2013 at 4:16 p.m.

    Steve, Sorry to bug, but I'm confused; I can only assume I'm having a blonde moment :) In short, 5:00:09 (Combined Digital) ≠ 2:21 (mobile) + 2:19 (desktop). Though those numbers are closer to 4:31 (TV). When I went back to Comparative Estimates, I found the number was 3:25 for desktop (which obviously doesn't work either) Can you explain (or provide language) to account for 60secs missing?
    Thank you!!

  4. Steve Smith from Mediapost, September 3, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.


    An error of omission and an error. the total digital time is 5:16 per day with 2:19 going to online and 2:21 for mobile and 0:36 attributed to other devices. I am guessing the others could include TV and auto?

    the full eMarketer chart is here

    Sorry for the error.

  5. Erika Alonso from Mojiva, September 3, 2013 at 4:30 p.m.

    Sorry, not 60 secs, should have written that roughly 20 minutes are unaccounted for...

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