It’s official: Clickthrough advertising effectiveness on mobile devices is somewhere south of atrocious.

As usage of the Internet on mobile devices like the Apple iPhone has become more prevalent, many businesses have been wondering how important it is for them to cater to these users through the creation of web sites that are optimized for mobile display.

Although creating a mobile version of a web site doesn’t have to be a major undertaking, it is “yet another task” to add to the marketer’s never-ending to-do list. So, just how important is it?

Chitika, Inc., a Massachusetts-based online advertising network, has analyzed the behaviors of “mobilists” and found some interesting results when it comes to their viewing of advertising and taking action. In tracking more than 92 million ad impressions served up by browsers, it turns out that mobile internet users clicked through at a far lower rate than those viewing ads on desktop machines.

How much lower? The overall clickthrough rate for mobilists was 0.48%, compared to a clickthrough rate of 0.84% for non-mobile users. That’s a serious difference, and gets about as far in the basement as you can go.

But why are the numbers so abysmal? More than likely, several factors are at work. First, consider the ways people use their mobile devices. It’s usually because they want to know something immediately … and it’s at times like those that folks are less inclined to get sidetracked by clicking on advertising links. By contrast, the “immediacy” factor with non-mobile devices often isn’t as acute.

Also, consider the load time on mobile devices – rather much slower. For that reason, mobile web content tends to be less informationally rich — or compelling in its appearance — thus decreasing its “stopping” power.

What this means for advertisers is that the key for succeeding in the mobile space is catching consumers at just the right time, not happening to catch them at any time. Easy enough in theory … but would anyone care to volunteer for putting this into practice? Best of luck to you.

From the perspective of the media purveyors, the Chitika findings certainly won’t make their task of attracting additional advertising revenues in the mobile sector any easier. Perhaps that’s why The Wall Street Journal announced last week that, beginning in November, it will be charging mobile users a weekly fee to access its content on mobile devices – and those fees will be charged to WSJ subscribers and non-subscribers both.

It’s further proof that relying on display advertising revenue simply isn’t cutting it as a practical business model in the mobile environment.

Surprising Findings about Smartphone Apps

iPhoneWith the explosive adoption rate of Apple’s iPhone smartphone since its release a little over a year ago – more than 25 million phones to date – it couldn’t be long before researchers would start examining user behavior and study the most popular applications that are being used.

Indeed, there are already hundreds of “for free” and “for fee” applications that are available for use on smartphones.

So what are most popular iPhone apps? You’re to be forgiven if you think of music or games, because that’s certainly where most of the press hype has been. But in fact, the most popular iPhone apps are all about … the weather.

That is right. In a recent report issued by online market research and analytics firm Compete, staid and unexciting weather apps were cited by ~40% of respondents as one of the three top iPhone apps they used.

The next most popular application cited? Facebook (by ~25%). By contrast, game applications were cited as a top three-category by only ~20% of respondents, and music apps even lower still.

So much for iPhone users demonstrating cutting-edge online behavior!

In a related analysis, online analytics firm Pinch Media found that most iPhone apps aren’t setting the world on fire in terms of their popularity. The Pinch analysis found that iPhone users are quite fickle: Only ~20% ever return to a free app after downloading it. And a month later? The return rate drops to a paltry 5%. (The percentages are even lower for paid apps.)

These stats have implications for third-party advertisers on smartphone app programs. For many, it may make more sense to advertise on The Weather Channel or other less flashy but more frequently used apps than going with high-sizzle gaming applications that might be used only a handful of times before they’re replaced by the “next new thing.”