POV: Mobile Internet Becomes Dominant

MINDSHARE POINT OF VIEW -  Recent Nielsen figures suggest that mobile devices are now the single largest access point for the internet. According to the report, US adults now spend 34 hours on the mobile internet versus 27 hours on desktop devices. The report is in line with recent figures from Facebook and Twitter which now receive the majority of their users and traffic through mobile devices; but it is a significant tipping point nonetheless.

Details / Implications

Whilst commentators have been proclaiming the ‘year of mobile’ since almost the turn of the millennium, this data is a sign that if such a thing existed, that year has been and gone: we are now in the mobile age. Whilst this will generate a lot of analysis, a few key points are clear.

Mobiles are or will be the primary media devices: Whilst Americans still spend an incredible amount of time watching TV, in markets such as Australia mobile is soon likely to become the largest single media device by usage, at least amongst smartphone owners (who make up >70% of the population and are most attractive to most advertisers).

The mobile internet is very different to the desktop web we’re used to: A majority of internet access on mobile devices is spent on apps, and a majority of that on games and then social apps, many of them ad-free. The likelihood of one-size-fits-all properties like portals emerging on the mobile internet seems unlikely, which changes the nature of reaching people using the net dramatically.

Personal computing is just getting started: There’s really nothing personal about a large computer which sits on a desk, or even about a laptop. But mobiles, or at least smartphones, are almost ubiquitous in their owners’ daily lives and also have much more personalized services. The existence of the address book and camera roll means that it is much easier for services to get the sort of data it took Facebook years to build up.

Targeting is going to change: Although it’s not entirely true to say cookies don’t work on mobile, it’s definitely the case that they don’t often work in the way we’re used to. On top of that there’s the fact that mobile devices actually carry and emit a multitude of other targeting signals, though that doesn’t mean we should always use them. App scraping is just one of a number of new methods being pushed that brands would be wise to think long and hard about before using.

Classification and measurement are still to be solved: Arguments that media dollars should shift to mobile because people spend so much time with them are misguided and simplistic. As an industry there is a need to prove the value of ‘traditional’ display and video formats on mobile, particularly on smartphones; strategies need to be more sophisticated in understanding the differences in usage between smartphones and tablets; and the answer might not always be ads, but often might be branded apps or using mobile as connecting devices in trans-media campaigns. But, equally, doing nothing is simply not an option any more either and the clients that get on board now and help to solve these problems will be the ones that win in the long run.


The rapid spread and evolution of the mobile internet since the release of the iPhone in 2007 has left many publishers, advertisers and agencies gasping. But this most recent data shows that now is definitely the time for clients to embrace the challenges and opportunities that mobility brings. As the computing power and capabilities of these devices continue to increase at the same time as prices come down (in the Android world at least), this shift is only going to speed up.