America Phones It In: Mobile Uniques/Time Spike, Then Crash On Election Day

The supply of digital media attention spiked, then crashed on the days surrounding Election Day, especially among mobile unique users. The findings indicate that mobile was the primary go-to medium Americans used to stay in touch with presidential election results.

The absolute supply of U.S. uniques -- both mobile and desktop -- rose only marginally over recent levels, but the amount of time spent per person and the number of pages viewed rose markedly on Tuesday, then crashed on Wednesday, according to a MediaPost analysis of the Digital Traffic Index, a collaboration of MediaPost and Jumpshot tracking the daily supply and usage among U.S. mobile, desktop and combined users.

The supply of total uniques rose slightly under a percentage point on Tuesday, but most of that reach came primarily from mobile, as desktop usage actually declined on Election Day, possibly because Americans were more transient traveling to and from polling locations. Desktop uniques fell and rose about a percentage point pre- and post-Election Day.

Not surprisingly, the supply of mobile uniques showed the opposite pattern -- rising 3.1% on Tuesday vs. Monday, then crashing 1.3% on Wednesday. It’s unusual to see much fluctuation in midweek mobile unique supply, except on major holidays. For comparison day-of-week over day-of-week comparison, Tuesday’s supply of mobile uniques was up 2.8% over the prior Tuesday.

But the real story was in usage behavior, and Americans were glued longer -- and to more pages -- on both mobile and desktop by a wide margin over recent consumption patterns, especially for mobile.

The amount of time spent on their mobile device per unique mobile user soared 22% on Tuesday and then crashed 14% on Wednesday.

“I am not surprised by the behavioral fluctuation across devices - particular mobile - leading into and post Tuesday's election,” observes Laura Correnti, executive vice president-managing director of media at Giant Spoon, adding, “I believe it reflects the hunger for information and commentary in the anticipated build-up to one of, if not the, most consequential election of our lifetime. That was followed by the need to pull back from the saturation of coverage and our social feeds to process and digest the outcome.

“The results you're pointing to are indicative that consumer behavior, much like this campaign, rises and falls with the narrative and the emotion it elicits,” she continues. “This campaign provided a tremendous case study about the gripping hold live stories - which are no longer beholden to finite amounts of time - can have on our attention and the numbers are proof of the dramatic impact they create. Cultural context is critical in connecting with consumers.”

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