Mobile Apps Challenge TV for Temporal Supremacy

Flurry Analytics has been chronicling the rise of the app ecosystem and the growth of app usage by consumers for several years. In January of this year the company released data arguing that daily time spent with mobile apps had surpassed the PC internet: 94 minutes vs. 72 minutes per day. And earlier today Flurry released an analysis of US consumer time spent with mobile apps vs. television.

Ad network InMobile asserted earlier this year that consumers are now spending more time on a daily basis with mobile media than they do with TV:

[M]obile ranks first in media consumption among Americans with 2.4 hours of the 9 hours spent consuming media on mobile devices—this is more than a quarter of time spent on mobile, outpacing TV (2.35 hours), PCs (1.6 hours) and any other channel.

However according to the data compiled by Flurry, consumers are spending 127 minutes per day with mobile apps compared to 168 minutes per day with TV.  TV time is basically flat, or slighly down according to Nielsen, while app-time is gaining according to Flurry. 

Flurry US Web vs App TV Consumption resized 600 

Nielsen itself says that people in the US spend roughly 4 hours and 18 minutes per day on average with conventional TV (vs. 168 minutes [2.8 hours] in the Flurry graph). That would be about 2X of the time spent with mobile apps, using the Flurry figures.

The question of whether time spent with mobile already exceeds TV time or closing in on it is largely symbolic. The larger point is that consumers are highly engaged with mobile devices and the mobile internet. That trend will only continue to grow and gain in the next several years. Mobile ad spending, however, is nowhere near commensurate with the kind of time and attention that consumers are spending with mobile media. The chart below (also courtsey of Flurry) illustrates the huge disparity between the two.

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 9.26.28 PM

Mary Meeker has argued that, based in part on this familiar time-spent formula, mobile advertising is basically a $20 billion opportunity in the US. That may be the case eventually -- though advertisers and their agencies aren't totally "rational." But in the near term are many barriers to the free flow of ad dollars into mobile right now: organizational politics and culture, lack of advertiser education, lack of budget and perhaps most of all lack of "clear ROI." 

It took a very long time for online advertising to attract the kind of ad dollars that were more or less consistent with consumer time spent online. It won't take quite as long for mobile to ramp. But it could still be a number of years before mobile marketing and advertising are significant budget items for the majority of advertisers.

For their part consumers are mostly indifferent to whether or how soon companies embrace mobile marketing and advertising. While they prefer mobile friendly sites and user-experiences they don't particularly care if marketers are fully exploiting mobile ad opportunities.

However, if marketers do not as the Thanksgiving holiday weekend has already proven, it will be their missed opportunity.