Commentary

The Mobile Web Overnights

As longtime readers already know, my teenage daughter and her incessant cell phone use is a bottomless pit of market research for me. Most kids have to remind their parents "I am not a child." Mine just barks, "I am not a focus group. " I believe she is getting this slogan printed on T-shirts and occasionally makes tattoo threats.

In the mobile world we all rely on one another for critical feedback and ersatz focus group data out of necessity. There is a dearth of data about how people use media brands on handsets on a day-to day-basis, let alone what we really think of them. For my part, I am trying to develop a product that feeds back to the industry more consistent critical evaluations on the quality of mobile content (stay tuned for more on this), but all of us are grasping here and there for some solid metrics about how mobile media gets used. So it is good to see that as the Mobile Marketing Association starts its annual New York Forum this week, two competing mobile providers lift the skirts on some of their data.

In dueling reports yesterday, Quattro Wireless and Crisp Wireless drilled into the Q1 data from the premium publishers they manage on mobile. Quattro both builds sites with brands and serves ads across a network, including CBSNews.com, NFL.com, TMZ and over 100 others. Crisp enables branded media like Bravo, E! Online, Cosmopolitan and Car and Driver for a claimed reach of 14 million mobile Web users. The two companies are coming at their first quarter metrics from different angles and reading from different products and media partners, but there are some important similarities. I won't do apples to apples comparison here, but instead pick my favorite fruit from both. I recommend everyone download both reports.

Not surprisingly, overall mobile access to major media brands is way up, 24% in Q1 according to the Crisp Wireless Index and 35% among Quattro sites. When it came to page views per visit, both Quattro and Crisp were exactly alike, reporting just under 4 per visit. Quattro makes the point that the PPV number is very similar to Web behaviors, although the amount of raw content consumed per mobile page is a fraction of the information a Web user gets per page. The two companies diverge substantially on per- month visits, with Quattro seeing five and Crisp seeing two, although there is a wide variance across content types. Quattro's portfolio may have more sports content that drives raw revisits. In breaking down traffic by content type, Crisp shows women's life style sites way ahead of all other categories with 3.5 visits per unique visitor per month. Women seem to come back more often, but their page views per visit are modest (2.5).

While Crisp's report is skewed more towards publishers and giving them some insight into user interaction across different types of content, Quattro's report is a bit more ad-focused. Yet both reports offer something for mobile marketers to chew. Most provocatively, Crisp is finding that mobile search accounts for only 7.51% of overall traffic to its sites. But again, that number is not the whole story. When it comes to local TV news sites (11.75% of traffic from search) and local newspaper sites (27.36%), even the nascent mobile engines are powerful sources. I would say let's not miss the most promising trees for the sparseness of the forest. Local search could be the real fuel that drives this category. I know in my personal use I am just starting to default to my iPhone as a local search-and-call device over the Web, although instinctively I go to the Web for the informational searches that would drive overall traffic to most sites.

On Quattro's part I was most impressed by the level-headedness of the CTR they offer on display advertising. On campaigns requiring more than 20,000 uniques moving to a landing mobile microsite, Quattro saw an average 2.33% click-through rate. While some mobile marketers like to howl about stratospheric CTRs on mobile, the 2.3% number not only looks more reasonable but even sustainable.

Those of you who have been playing the mobile marketing game since the beginning may recall the earliest results Tom Burgess and Third Screen used to offer at the first Mobile Marketing Forums back in the day. If memory serves, Third Screen was reporting 2% to 3% as the typical click rate on mobile banners long ago, and Tom often told me that, remarkably, they were not seeing declines over time. My takeaway from all this is that "share of voice" is and should be a unique value proposition of mobile advertising. A single banner, even on the diminutive cell phone, beats the clutter of the Web any day.

While Quattro's and Crisp's numbers are necessarily idiosyncratic and drawn from their unique customer bases, they give us necessary benchmarks out of which we can begin to glean more effective ad and content strategies -- and do so without the help of teenage daughters. Because, frankly, mine is starting to get too savvy for my own good.

"What do actual focus groups get paid?" she asks as she flicks through the overpriced blouses in Aeropostale.

"Some get paid in cash," I say. "And some just exchange the data to restrain the dogs of war. For instance, you tell me what mobile apps you used this week. Then I will give you the opportunity to take down that bikini shot of you I just found on your MySpace page -- right NOW! -- and before I send the link to Mom."

"I hate having a digital dad."

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