The “App Gap”: Mobile Apps Overtake All Others in Digital Media Consumption

Mobile apps overtaking other digital media consumptionIt was bound to happen.

The bulk of time Americans are spending on digital media … is now happening on mobile applications.

According to data released this past week by Internet and digital analytics firm comScore, the combined time that people expend using digital media breaks down as follows:

  • Mobile apps: ~52% of all time spent online
  • Mobile web surfing: ~8%
  • Desktop: ~40%

Apps are clearly in the driver’s seat – particularly in the mobile realm.  In fact, comScore estimates that apps account for 7 out of every 8 minutes spent on mobile devices.

On smartphones, the app usage is ~88% of all time spent, whereas on tablets, it’s ~82%.

This doesn’t mean that app usage is spread evenly throughout the population of people who are online.  Far from it.  Only about one-third of people download one app per month or more.  (The average smartphone user is downloading about three apps per month.)

The inevitable conclusion:  App usage is highly concentrated among a subset of the population.

Indeed, the 7% most active smartphone owners account for almost half of all the download activity during any given month.

But even if most users aren’t downloading all that many apps … they are certainly engaged with the ones they do have on their devices:  comScore reports that nearly 60% are using apps every day.

Here again, the data show that usage levels are much higher among smartphone users than they are with tablet users (where only about one quarter of the people use apps daily).

Where they’re spending their time is also interesting.  Well over 40% of all app time spent on smartphones is with a user’s single most used app.  (Facebook takes top honors — of course.)

And if you combine social networking, games and Internet radio, you’ve pretty much covered the waterfront when it comes to app usage.

When you think about it, none of this should come as much surprise.  We’re a mobile society – hourly, daily, monthly and yearly.  It only makes sense that most online time is going to be happening when people are away from their home or their desk, now that it’s so easy to be connected so easily from even the tiniest mobile devices.

And speaking of “easy” … is it really any wonder why people would flock to apps?  It’s less hassle to open up an app for news or information rather than searching individual sites via mobile.  People simply don’t have the patience for that anymore.

Media properties’ new formula: Publish … re-publish … and publish yet again.

RepublishingAs media properties have moved away from finite schedules of daily, weekly or monthly publication to something more akin to 24/7 content dissemination, it’s becoming quite a challenge to deliver new content.

The reality is, building a digital media property in today’s “always on” world that can successfully deliver new, original content on an ongoing basis is quite costly.

In fact, it’s economically unfeasible for many if not most publishing enterprises.

This explains why readers have started to see a parade of news items that have been reused, recycled or repurposed in an effort to present the items as “fresh” news multiple times over.

This is happening with greater regularly, and it’s seemingly getting more prevalent with every passing day.

Here’s a representative case:  Business Insider.  This finance and news site has doubled its traffic over the past several years.  Business Insider now attracts more than 12 million unique visitors each month – each of them presumably interested in consuming “fresh news.”

But for content that is fairly “evergreen” in nature, Business Insider is perfectly content to serve up the same (or nearly similar) stories two … three … four times or more.

For example, one of its stories, “Facts About McDonald’s That Will Blow Your Mind,” has been published no fewer than six times over a span of three years.

The various iterations of that article varied very little each time.  Sometimes there were a different number of facts presented (usually 15 or 16).  Business Insider even published the identical list twice in the same year, using the exact same headline while revising only the introductory paragraph.

Beyond the fact that publishing essentially the same article six times within three years took some of the burden off the news-gathering and writing team, it turns out that topics such as this one really do engage readers — time and again.

Business Insider’s first iteration of the McDonald’s article attracted more than 2.5 million views.  And overall, the story has been clicked on more than 8 million times.

(Of course, the final time the article ran, the story generated only around 400,000 views, so at some point the law of diminishing returns had to come into play.)

articleI like another example, too:  Cosmopolitan Magazine.  In April of this year, it published an article titled “25 Life-Changing Ways to Use Q-tips.”  That story generated only 44 shares — hardly earth-shattering results for a media property with over 3 million subscribers.

But then Cosmopolitan promoted the article on Pinterest in May … and also on Twitter in May and again in June … and on Facebook in early May and again there in early June.

Whereas Cosmopolitan’s original posting of the article on its own website didn’t result in much engagement to speak of, just the two Facebook posts resulted in nearly 1,500 shares.

With these kinds of results being generated, it’s no wonder publishers have decided to “publish … re-publish … and then publish again.”

So the next time you have a sensation of déjà vu about reading an article, chances are, you’re not dreaming.

Print magazine startups: Hope springs eternal.

print publicationsI’ve blogged before about the number of print magazine launches versus closures in the age of the Internet.

Now the latest report from media database clearinghouse Oxbridge Communications shows that when it comes to this most traditional form of media … hope springs eternal.

In fact, Oxbridge is reporting that in the first half of this year, new magazine start-ups outstripped those that ceased publication – and by a substantial margin.

The Oxbridge database, which includes U.S. and Canadian publications, shows that 93 magazines were launched in the first half of 2014, versus just 30 that were shuttered.

True, this represents a lower number of start-ups than is the historical average … but it’s also a lower number of closures.

What specialty audiences are being targeted by these new pubs?

In the continuation of an existing trend, there’s growth in new “regional interest” magazines such as 12th & Broad (aimed at the creative community in the Nashville metro area) and San Francisco Cottages & Gardens.

Food and drink is another category of growing interest, with publications like Barbecue America and Craft Beer & Brewing hitting the streets for the first time.

And why not?  Despite ever-changing consumer tastes and interests, all of us continue to share at least one fundamental trait:  We eat!

But on a cautionary note, the smaller list of magazine closures do include two vaunted “historic” titles:  Jet (Johnson Publishing) and Ladies’ Home Journal (Meredith).

These closures underscore the point that the magazine industry shakeup continues – and who knows what other famous titles might cease publication during the second half of the year.

As for the biggest reason behind the magazine closures … isn’t it obvious?  It’s decreased advertising revenue.

Continuing a trend that’s been happening for the better part of a decade now, Publishers Information Bureau reports that total magazine ad pages declined another 4% in the First Quarter of 2014 as compared to the same quarter of last year.

For the record, that’s 28,567 ad pages for all U.S. and Canadian publications.

While that figure may seem like a healthy total, it’s not enough to sustain the total number of publications out there.

The harsh reality is that print journalism remains dramatically more expensive than digital production.  Unless a magazine can obtain enough subscribers to justify its ad rates, the only other way it can survive is to cover its costs via a “no-advertising” business model.

The vast majority of subscribers will never pay the full cost to produce a print publication.  And with more free information resources than ever available to them online, many people aren’t particularly inclined to commit to even a subsidized subscription rate.

Indeed, the wealth of free information means it’s more difficult these days even to get qualified business readers to subscribe to free B-to-B pubs that target their own industry or markets.

What changing dynamics would portend a shift in the downward trajectory?  It would be nice to anticipate a bottoming-out followed by a turnaround.

Unfortunately, if the past five years have demonstrated anything, it’s that there may be no “natural bottom” when it comes to diminishing advertising revenues in the print magazine business.

Craigslist: The $5 billion juggernaut that crippled an industry.

Craigslist logoIt’s common knowledge that the business model for newspapers started going awry in a major way with the decline in newspaper classified advertising.

Craigslist played a huge role in that development, as the online classifieds site went about methodically entering one urban market after another across the United States.

And now we have quantification of just how impactful Craigslist’s role was.  It comes in the form of a May 2013 study authored by Robert Seamans of New York University’s Stern School of Business and Feng Zhu of the University of Southern California.

Titled Responses to Entry in Multi-Sided Markets:  The Impact of Craigslist on Local Newspapers, the study explored the dynamics at play over the period 2000-2007, focusing on newspapers’ degree of reliance on classifieds at the time of Craigslist’s entry into their markets.

What the researchers found was that those newspapers that relied heavily on classified ads for revenue experienced more than a 20% decline in classified advertising rates following Craigslist’s entry into their markets.

But that isn’t all:  The outmigration of classified advertising to Craigslist was accompanied by other negative trend lines — an increase of subscription prices (up 3%+) and lowering circulation figures (down nearly 5%).

Even newspaper display advertising rates fell by approximately 3%.

Were these developments “cause” or “effect”?  The study’s authors posit that fewer classified ads may have diminished the incentive for people to purchase the newspapers.  Also, display advertising rates tend to track circulation figures, so once the “decline cycle” started, it was bound to continue.

The study concludes that by offering buyers and sellers a free classified ad alternative to paid listings in newspapers, Craigslist saved users approximately $5 billion over the seven-year period.

Those dollars came right out of the hides of the newspapers, of course … and changed the print newspaper industry for good.

But here’s the thing:  The experience of the newspaper industry has relevance beyond just them.  “The boundaries between media industries are blurred and advertisers are able to reach consumers through a variety of platforms such as TV, the Internet and mobile devices,” the authors write.

The unmistakable message to others in the media is this:  It could happen to you, too.

A full summary of the Seamans/Zhu report can be found here.

To Find Newspaper Readers in the United States … Head East

Newspaper stackThe news about newspaper readership rates has been uniformly bleak over the past decade or so.

In fact, readership rates for daily print newspaper have declined almost 20% since 2001, according to trend studies conducted by market research firm Scarborough.

Today, national daily print newspaper readership rates stand at around 37% of adults, down from ~50% just a dozen years ago.

Interestingly however, there are distinct differences in readership rates based on geography. 

Readership appears to be highest in the Northeast and Industrial Midwest regions, whereas it’s significantly lower than the national average across the Southeast, Texas and the Pacific Southwest.

Which metropolitan market takes top honors for readership? It’s Pittsburgh, where ~51% of the adult population reads daily print newspapers.

Other high readership rates are found in a cluster of markets within a 250-mile radius of Pittsburgh, it turns out:

  • Pittsburgh Metro Area: ~51% of adults read daily print newspapers
  • Albany/Schenectady/Troy Metro: ~49%
  • Hartford/New Haven Metro: ~49%
  • Cleveland Metro: ~48%
  • Buffalo/Niagara Fall Metro: ~47%
  • New York City Metro: ~47%
  • Toledo Metro: ~47%

Only one other metropolitan market charts daily newspaper readership as high: Honolulu, at ~47% adult readership.

Highest and Lowest Daily Newspaper Readership by Major Metropolitan Market

(Source: AdvertisingAge Magazine)

At the other end of the scale are various Sunbelt urban markets. Here are the five metropolitan areas that bring up the rear when it comes to the lowest daily newspaper readership rates:

  • Atlanta Metro Area: ~23% of adults read daily print newspapers
  • Houston/Galveston Metro: ~24%
  • San Antonio Metro: ~24%
  • Las Vegas Metro: ~26%
  • Bakersfield Metro: ~26%

What’s the cause of these geographic discrepancies?

It may be age demographics, which tend to skew younger in these Sunbelt markets.

Perhaps it’s the ethnic composition of the markets – although pretty much all of them on both lists have diverse populations.

So I turn the question over to the readers:  If you have any insights (or even simply suspicions) to share, I welcome your comments.

It’s Official: Instagram is in the Big Leagues Now

Thanksgiving Day 2012 on Instagram

Thanksgiving Day 2012 broke all records for Instagram’s photo sharing volume, with over 10 million photos shared and more than 225 per second at its peak.

Instagram, the mobile photo sharing service that came on the scene about two years ago, has been quietly building a following among many people who are attracted to its simplicity and ease of use, along with the enhanced image quality it offers. 

This past Thanksgiving proves how important Instagram has become within the social media fabric.  On Thanksgiving Day, fully 10 million photos were shared on Instagram.

At its peak time at 3:40 pm (Eastern Standard Time), photos were being shared at a rate of ~225 per second.  and throughout the the peak dinner hours from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm EST, more than 200 photos per second were being shared.

According to Instagram’s statistics, Thanksgiving Day was the busiest in the service’s history, which normally has about 5 million photos uploaded per day.

Facebook, which acquired Instagram in September, sees far more photo uploads on its flagship social platform – around 300 million images per day – which makes Instagram a relative babe in the woods. 

But Facebook looks to have big plans for Instagram, including a goal of doubling the number of app users from ~100 million to ~200 million.

Clearly, Instagram is one social platform that merits following in the months ahead.  Now that it’s joined the rarified ranks of the other platforms that have broken through to the “big leagues,” it’ll be interesting to see where Instagram goes from here and how it monetizes itself.

The “Digital Natives” are Restless …

Digital Natives, Digital Multi-taskingDigital natives” is a term used to describe consumers who have grown up with mobile technology as part of their daily lives – essentially people age 25 and younger.

And man, do these whippersnappers behave differently than the rest of us! “A Biometric Day in the Life,” a newly released research study from Time, Inc., reveals how the myriad digital devices and platforms are affecting the media consumption habits of the Digital Natives compared to the rest of the population.

The salient finding from the Time research: On average, Digital Natives switch their attention between various media platforms a whopping 27 times in a single hour. That’s nearly once every other minute.

[For purposes of the analysis, media platforms includes television, magazines, desktop computers, tablets, smartphones, as well as channels within platforms.]

What’s the impact of this “multi-tasking to the max” behavior? The Time study posits that Digital Natives’ emotional engagement with content is less involved and more constrained.

In fact, the study concludes that these people tend to use media to regulate their mood; if they grow tired or bored, they switch to something else.

The study’s comparison of Digital Natives’ interaction with their digital devices to the rest of the population is also instructive. Natives tend to divide their time equally between digital and non-digital media, whereas the rest of us spend about two-thirds of our time with non-digital media.

Moreover, Digital Natives are significantly more likely to take their devices from room to room with them when they are at home (~65% versus ~40% for the rest of the population). One natural result of this tendency is that it makes switching platforms even easier.

And what about texting? Nearly nine out of ten Digital Natives report that they send or receive text messages on a typical day (compared to half of the rest of the population).

In fact, more than half of Digital Natives state that they “prefer texting people rather than talking to them.” Fewer than 30% of the rest of us feel that way.

Social media behaviors are similar; ~80% of Digital Natives report that they access Facebook at least once per day – far greater than rest of the population accesses (~57%).

The Time survey’s findings suggest that the traditional way of delivering marketing messages with a clear “beginning, middle and end” may be morphing into something dramatically different from what we’ve known.

Dr. Carl Marci, CEO and chief scientist at Innerscope Research as well as a staff psychiatrist as Massachusetts General Hospital, has made several interesting observations about the Time study:

 Patterns of visual attention and emotional consequences may be changing as a result of modern media consumption.

 The brains of a new generation of Americans may be becoming “rewired.”

 Marketers are facing an increasingly complex media environment, making it harder to reach and engage their target audiences.

If Dr. Marci’s observations are accurate, things are going to get much less predictable – and a lot more challenging – for marketers.

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