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Jun 162012


This graph from Derek Thompson shows us where Americans direct their attention, and where advertisers spend their dollars.   The chart clearly shows that something is out of whack, Americans spend more time with mobile than they do with print media, yet print gets 25 times more advertising dollars than mobile.  This leads me to ask two related questions.

1) Are advertisers overspending on print?

2) Are they underspending on mobil?

I think the answer to the first question is a definite yes, and this is very bad long term news for the world of newspapers and magazines.  The simple fact is that print media is getting fewer and fewer eyeballs, and advertising dollars will also exit.

But I am not so sure about the second question.  Jean-Louis Gassée asks the question “Why hasn’t mobile advertising taken off?”  After all, the iPhone is now 5 years old.  “There are  tens of millions of smart phones sold each month”   According to Pew Research, 27% of Americans are using moblile devices to get news.  That’s a powerful lot of eyeballs, and yet no one seems to have found a way to make mobile advertising effective.

Gassee points to two problems.   The first is screen size.  As you can see   in the screenshot below


The ad sizes available may simply not be big enough to catch our attention or entice us.  Mobile devices are not just smaller laptops.  They are entirely different devices with their own stregnths and weaknesses, and we use them differently.

When we sit down in front of a laptop or desktop screen, our attention is (somewhat) focused and our time is (reasonably) committed. We know where we are and what we’re doing.

With smartphones, we’re on the move, we’re surrounded by people, activities, real-world attractions and diversions. …, time spent on mobile devices is fragmented.

Yet many people remain convinced of the potential for mobile advertising.  IAB released a study showing that $5.3 Billion were spent on mobile advetising last year.  As they point out, that’s less than $1 per phone, a tiny amount.    No doubt this amount will grow,  the question is “will it be effective?”


In a future article, we will look at some of the ways American Express, Facebook, Verizon, and others are going to try.


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