Apps now drive half of all time spent on digital

May turned out to be a banner month for mobile as it delivered on some huge milestones that underscored just how impressive the medium’s ascendance has been in the past few years.

Mobile platforms — smartphones and tablets — combined to account for 60 percent of total digital media time spent, up from 50 percent a year ago. And perhaps more impressively, mobile apps accounted for more than half of all digital media time spent in May, coming in at 51 percent.

While the mobile platform shift continues unabated, not every content category has experienced the shift at the same speed. An analysis of the leading content categories (based on those with at least 10 billion minutes of total engagement in May) showed which have seen the most pronounced shift to mobile. Amazingly, but perhaps not altogether unexpectedly, a couple of important categories have shifted almost exclusively to mobile. Digital radio, led by category leader Pandora now generates more than 96 percent of its total engagement from mobile devices. Meanwhile, the photos category, with key players such as Instagram and Flickr leading the way, also attracted 96 percent of its activity from mobile. Other categories getting at least 90 percent of their engagement from mobile include maps (thanks to Google Maps, Apple Maps and others) and instant messengers (led by Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and others).

While social networking does not rank at the very top of this list among the most mobile-skewing content categories, it is arguably the most important. The No. 1 category in terms of overall digital engagement accounting for 20 percent of total digital time spent, social networking now generates more than 70 percent of its activity on mobile. When considering the category’s contribution to total digital ad spending, its rapid shift to mobile marks an important sign of the times for the Internet economy.

Just how important is social networking to mobile?

Consider the following stats:

Total mobile engagement on social has grown 55 percent in the past year.

Social networking on mobile has accounted for 31 percent of all growth in total Internet engagement in the past year.

Social is the home of the No. 1 mobile property, Facebook, which accounts for 24 percent of all mobile time spent. The primary Facebook app accounts for 18 percent on its own.

What’s next in mobile?

It’s clear that mobile usage is a tidal wave that’s completely transformed the way we consume digital content, particularly in just the past year or two. And we know that as eyeballs move to mobile, ad dollars will eventually have to follow suit. But this transition will be bumpy if the ad measurement and monetization infrastructure develops too slowly.

With mobile apps now accounting for more than half of digital media time spent, the need for advancements to help accelerate this transition has never been more urgent.

Andrew Lipsman is vice president for marketing and insights at ComScore, a Reston-based company that measures digital traffic on all platforms. This commentary was adapted from a post he published on the company’s Insights blog.



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