From a red London bus to the Congress in Toronto: this is your future

london bus commuters mobile ()

Last week I started a very unscientific study by counting the number of passengers who were using their mobile phones. On average for each journey I estimated that about a third of the passengers were engaged with their phones, reading, or text messaging, or listening with headphones on, though on one day it was easily more than half. And after doing my count I could then sit back and spend the rest of my journey catching up on my phone with the FIPP home page, Media Guardian, BBC News and clicking through to the stories they carried that interested me.

What made me think about the importance of smartphones was a Special Report I had seen in Business Insider on US Digital Media Advertising Spend. The top line was that between 2015 and 2020 the Report forecast that advertising revenues on mobile will grow by a CAGR of 26.5% making it by some distance the fastest growing of media formats. It will be mobile rather than desktop that will drive spending on display, video, social and search forecasting that mobile display (which includes banners, rich media and sponsorship) advertising revenues will overtake that of desktop display by 2017, and mobile search advertising revenues will overtake desktop search by 2019.

And if this is the scenario in the USA, then it’s highly likely to be replicated everywhere else in due course. 

It’s also hardly a big surprise. The little vignette of what’s occurring on my London bus explains precisely why this shift will happen as advertising dollars always follow the eyeballs, and clearly the eyeballs are spending more and more time on the phone, In fact it could be said that advertisers are a little slow as numerous studies have shown that advertising spend on mobile has been lower than it should be based on time spent proportions. There were a number of reasons for this, the creative constraints of small screens, limited interface technology between editorial and advertising content, but chiefly a lack of understanding of what works in this medium. Since then we have seen much better engagement and interactivity with the arrival of native advertising, bigger and clearer screens, and better video content all adding up to a medium that will see tremendous growth.

Mobile, therefore, should be top of the agenda of any media company’s future plan on the basis if that’s where our advertisers and readers are going, then so must we.  However, life, as we all know is a little more complicated.

Just before we firmly conclude that we all have to rush to a mobile-first strategy, I’d also like to note the conclusions of a study made by comScore called The 2015 US Digital Future in Focus, that demonstrated that it’s not quite a case of mobile use crushing desktop use, but that the consumer is actually a multi-device user having different drives for what device is used, when, and what for. For example, mobiles are the preferred device when looking for information on gaming, social networks and health, with desktops more favoured for topics such as business and finance, entertainment and retail. Other studies from places like the Pew Research Center also demonstrate the important differences in terms of age, sex and class over who uses mobile in preference to desktop and in what ways. 

Making sense of all this, therefore, is a really important topic. Recognising this, at FIPP’s World Congress in Toronto in October, there will be a one day stream of sessions under the umbrella of FIPP Mobile, to help magazine media groups with their thinking.  For example, Scott Button, CEO of Unruly Media will explain how to create native advertising experiences; Wei Nie the mobile communities operations director of We Chat, part of the Tencent group, China will show how to build communities on mobile; and Gerrit Klein and Dominik Grau will present a case study of how Ebner Verlag, a 200 year old publisher, sees its mobile first future; and other sessions will look at multi-platform publishing and the rise of visual journalists and lots more. If you want to see your mobile future, come along to Toronto.

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