Ad Spend Versus Time Spent on Mobile

Flurry Analytics released a report titled “Apps Solidify Leadership Six Years into the Mobile Revolution” back in April 1st of this year which I hadn’t analyzed in detail. Looking back, I certainly should have; It is a trove of information.

Here, I would like to look at the final graph that they show.


Here the assumption is that “time-spent is the timeless currency”, an old saying in the world of advertising that means that advertising revenue distribution follows time-spent distributions. If this holds true, then the above graph suggests that ad revenue share for Google will trend downwards while ad revenue share for other apps will rise.

This is a bold suggestion and I would certainly like to see some more information related to this. The current study is still too crude to draw a definitive conclusion, some of the reasons for which I will outline below;

  1. Of the 18% Time Spent on Google, 14% is actually the total of time spent inside a browser. Flurry is attributing 100% of the time spent in a browser (including Safari on iOS) to time spent on Google. This is an understandable approximation because a large proportion of ads on the web are from Google, but still quite extreme.
  2. Of the 65% Time Spent on Other Apps, a large proportion will be showing apps from AdMob, Google’s mobile advertising network which they acquired in 2009. Hence much of this 65% could be attributed to Time Spent on Google.
  3. Although Google has very strong market positions in both search ads (AdWords) and display ads (AdSense), search ad revenue is growing much faster. It is also the majority of their revenue. It is very possible that search-related ads can earn a disproportionate amount of money that cannot be inferred from time-spent alone.

On the desktop, Google worked hard to provide free solutions for the activities that people did on their PCs. They created Gmail and Google Docs because email and productivity applications were the activities that people did. They acquired Blogger because a lot of the content that people were reading on the web were blogs. They created their own RSS reader because that was how many people read content.

Google was not content with simply supplying ads to websites and webapps; they created or helped create the websites/webapps themselves, or they tried to provide tools to read the content more effectively. They tried to be much more involved than a simple advertising agency.

On mobile, it does seem that Google is struggling to do this. They have failed to create an engaging social network, and they aren’t involved in the creation of games. YouTube, although significant at 4% of total time, is still quite small compared to games and Facebook. They don’t have a direct presence inside the dominant mobile activities.

It will be interesting to see whether Google will push harder to be more than an advertising agency on mobile, or whether it will be content with pushing ads through search and AdMob.

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