If Mobile Means So Much to the Media Ecosystem, Why Weren’t the Mobile Publishers at Re!Think?

This week we attended ARF’s (Advertising Research Foundation) Re!Think conference. Each year, the event provides a venue for vendors, publishers and advertisers to discuss ongoing developments and innovation around advertising measurement and research. Over the past few years, major digital advertising players like Google and Facebook are just as active at the conference as the traditional media giants ranging from ESPN to CBS. Thanks to Gayle Fuguitt,CEO & President, of the ARF, for introducing a fresh touch to the agenda and conference execution! All the attendees I spoke to were eager to return next year – even those coming from as far away as from Japan!

I spoke to a full house on Tuesday and talked through many of the frameworks Verto uses for mobile audience measurement, serving major mobile gaming and app publishers and adtech companies, like YuMe. The first time I spoke at ARF was the end of the last decade (~2009), and mobile was just 12 percent of all time spent on digital. Now in 2016, mobile represents close to 60-70 percent of all digital time spent in the U.S., and smartphone devices have now surpassed desktop and laptop computers in terms of unique users. Quite impressive growth in a mere 7 years!

Further, I revealed that mobile usage is not driven by websites, but rather by apps. There are680 mobile apps in the U.S. today that have at least 1 million unique monthly users (e.g. Yahoo! News and TripIt) versus only 6 apps with that same number of users in 2006 (e.g. Google Maps on Blackberries and Symbian devices). On average, U.S. consumers spend 2h 10m every day on mobile apps – which is right around the same amount of time spent watching TV. Millennials spend twice as much time on smartphones but have shorter session durations than Baby Boomers.

I also covered several key trends in digital advertising spending. The run-rate for mobile advertising revenues in the U.S. will reach the run-rate of desktop advertising this year. And within mobile advertising, app installation ads represent almost half of all ad spending – between $6-8 billion just this year. Despite seeing many familiar faces at the conference, these mobile ad buyers and their suppliers weren’t there. Given the significance of mobile to the industry, we must invite the leading mobile app and gaming companies to have a seat the table.

Big gaming companies, like EA, Supercell and King, spend billions every year on audience acquisition. And they have increasingly sophisticated methods and frameworks to measure their spend. Sadly, we heard none of their perspectives.

Similarly, the mobile ad networks and other platforms that are fueling that ecosystem were also missing from the audience. If the whole premise of ARF is to spur dialogue in the industry and bring the relevant players together, I hope we can all together bring these mobile-centric media players to future conferences!

Read more about the mobile app user in our App Report, or follow us on Twitter to get regular data and insights from our research.