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The Mobile Web is No Longer the Future?

Posted October 26, 2015

With mobile now dominating digital media, is it over before it’s even had time to celebrate with the advent of Apple iPhone’s ad-blocker?

Throughout the early half of this decade and even in the latter part of the last decade many analysts, marketers and technologists were predicting each and every year that it would be the year of the mobile.  Finally in 2015 we can safely say it really is the year of the mobile.  According to comScore in 2014 mobile platforms accounted for 60% of total digital media time spent in the US (mobile apps accounted for more than half of all total digital media time spent).  In 2015 comScore reports that the number of mobile only internet users has surpassed desktop only internet users in the US.  Only a year ago there was twice the number of desktop only internet users compared to mobile only internet users.

In the UK, mobile advertising spend has increased 45% in 2015 surpassing print advertising and is forecasted to exceed TV advertising spend by the end of 2016 accounting for half of all digital advertising spend according to eMarketer.  However, with the news of Apple’s iPhone ad-blocker Safari extension this spells bad news for website publishers if advertisements will be blocked.  On the surface this may not seem like a big deal as Android devices have more than 42% market share (2014) vs. iOS’s 38%, however Apple iPhones and iPads accounted for 52% of mobile advertising revenues compared to Android’s 34% (Opera Media Works).

Will it mean an advert free mobile internet or will it mean the end of the free mobile internet?

Ad-blockers have been around on desktops for a while and yet we still have the web that is largely free with a few websites asking for subscription, many websites ask you to disable the ad-blocker in order to view the full website, and indeed many ad-blockers allow users to create whitelists of certain adverts and websites.

However, advertisers may not like to take the risk of allowing end users to decide whether they want to see adverts or not, and indeed which ones.  So what are the options?

Native Advertising and Branded Content

In the old days these were called advertorials, surely website publishers will be pushing advertisers for more native advertising in the form of sponsored articles and videos that look, act and feel like regular articles and cannot be blocked by ad-blockers.  Brands may choose to create even more of their own content in the form of branded content.  However this seems a little disconcerting as the web becomes more and more populated by brands preaching messages on what should be independent publications offering readers independent news and opinions?

Social Media

It certainly is the age of social media, there are so many users, is such a great influencer, and it is certainly used well by many brands to create engagement.  Although still growing as a source of traffic for websites, social media still lags far behind search and paid for media in driving traffic.  According to MarketLive, social media accounted for 1.5% of ecommerce traffic in Q1 of 2015, compared to 34% of unpaid search.  When using social media, users are not in the research and decision making mindset but are trying to have fun and conversations.  Would a salesperson interrupt a group of friends in a coffee shop to let them know about the latest special offer?

Mobile Apps

As noted before, more than half of all digital media time spent is on mobile apps.  This certainly seems like the obvious answer for advertisers on where next to place their adverts.  After communications and social media apps, the most downloaded apps are games.  According to the IAB in the UK 69% of the 8-74 year old online population are considered gamers, with the biggest share of gaming time being on apps.  75% of gamers accept some level of advertising on free apps and 8 in 10 prefer to download a free app with advertising than pay for an advertising free version.  In-app adverts fund talented developers to create more free apps for users, and according to Dynatrace 85% of users prefer apps over the mobile web, citing convenience, speed and better user experience.

As Google’s chief executive Larry Page said, “the industry needs to do better at producing ads that are less annoying and that are quicker to load.”  Relevance is of utmost importance and advertisers need to serve the correct message to the correct people who may actually find it useful.  With global mobile advertising spend already topping $50bn and forecasted to reach almost $200bn in 2019 by eMarketer the smart money maybe on acquiring mobile app users if advertisers and publishers can get it right.

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