CEO Insights: Media Honeypot 2018 and One of the Biggest Questions Around Mobile

Last week, Verto had the pleasure of attending the Media Honeypot conference in Stockholm, an annual event that brings together established European companies as well as start-ups (or so-called “scale-ups”) to discuss ongoing changes in the media industry. It was great to see some familiar faces, such as conference founder Heikki Rotko, ex-CEO of MTV3 (Finland’s biggest commercial TV channel); we also attended the 2017 conference, where we delivered one of the keynote presentations.

I particularly enjoyed Schibsted’s presentation, which discussed the non-technical trends taking place in human behavior. For example, how the abundance of choice versus scarcity influences people, and the fact that local, more focused content and publications can really hit the spot – it is not always about scale. Of course, the conversation eventually shifted back towards technology: the power held by Facebook and Google, and how it impacts the tech industry at large is an inevitable topic these days. But I also spoke about the state of digital media in the Nordics with many of my fellow conference attendees. Even though the Nordic market is small, it was produced a fair share of innovative media companies. Spotify is one of the highest-profile global success stories, but there are also other great examples like Finland’s Sanoma, which was the first Nordic publisher to move to a digital-first format when it launched an iPhone app for its flagship Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat six years ago, replacing Nokia’s platforms and other web-based approaches. Many other global newspapers didn’t follow in their footsteps until years later.

Verto CEO Hannu Verkasalo (center) speaks at Media Honeypot 2018

I also had the honor of speaking on a panel discussions with four other fellow Nordic founders, Elina Berglund Scherwitzl (Natural Cycles); Emma Rosman (WelcomeApp); Elsa Bernadotte (Karma); and Johan Attby (Fishbrain). Our discussion ranged across a number of topics, from how each of us develops positioning and digital strategies, all the way to understanding the lifecycle of a growth company. We each addressed the moment when we realized there was growth and scale available for our products, the value positioning and importance of finding our own niche areas, and how we create sustainable business models. While we all work at different companies and across different industries, there was plenty of alignment in our experiences in building growth companies.

One of the Biggest Questions Around Mobile Remains…Apps or Web?

My portion of the panel discussion focused on changes and opportunities in mobile, and particularly the mobile app versus mobile web debate. Is mobile web still alive? Or is the app dead? And how do the two interact with each other?

The entire topic of mobile apps is a lovely one – and I enjoy speaking about it with partners and clients every single day. Apps have changed the way people interact with smart devices – particularly small-screen mobile devices (such as smartphones), due to the better usability, and increased discoverability options that apps offer. Digital publishers have also, by and large, taken steps to move towards apps from mobile web sites, though the speed of development and adoption varies wildly.

But as our data and reality shows, mobile apps increasingly act like and leverage the mobile web, while the best mobile web sites act and look like mobile apps. And while I’ve seen many companies declare that mobile web is dead, it’s not a simple black-and-white division. Much of the content within apps is still based on web protocols; for example, when you click on links in the Twitter or Facebook apps, you are rerouted to an internal browser. Many apps still utilize HTML 5 to render content. And what about widgets? They look like apps, but are actually web-based frames. The truth is that we are living in an increasingly mixed technology architecture today, where both mobile web sites and apps are being used, sometimes across each other, and the consumer actually does not easily realize what is an app, what is a website, and how they interact. And the typical consumer shouldn’t have to concern themselves with these matters. That onus falls on the publishers and developers themselves. Who should be working to deliver a seamless  user experience, where apps and mobile web work together fluidly. That’s a far more important task than trying to declare a “winner” between the two.

The Mobile Web Isn’t Dead

Verto’s data also proves that mobile web is far from over. Even when just accounting for direct web browser usage (not in-app web browsing), our research with Google shows interesting insights:

  • 27% of all mobile device sessions (among U.S. adults, ages 18 and above) have some sort of mobile web activity included, too (not just apps).
  • And nearly 10% of mobile device sessions consist of mobile web activity only (without any app usage).
  • More than 15% of all device sessions start with a mobile web activity instead of an app; 69% of these sessions also terminate with a mobile web activity.

This also brings to mind a study that we conducted last year with Kargo, which investigates mobile web versus app usage. Our research showed that more than 20% of all time spent on mobile devices is spent with mobile web browsing, and mobile web browsing is used by virtually every single mobile user on a daily basis.

Furthermore, when it comes to  in-app web browsing behaviors, one out of four Facebook app sessions includes some form of web browsing (within the app), and in total the average consumer spends two hours per month on web browsing within the Facebook app. On a monthly basis, as many as 44 million adults in the U.S. consume web-based entertainment content within the Facebook app, while 43 million adults consume web-based news/weather information within the Facebook app. Notably, this content is not owned by Facebook; rather, it is owned by other publishers and distributed across the mobile web – but it’s consumed in the Facebook mobile app. Consumers who use mobile web browsing also spend more time per session within the browser than what they do with the Facebook app.

Overall, Media Honeypot raised a number of interesting discussions around the future of media, fragmentation, and the value of mobile apps. As Verto data shows, the boundary between apps and websites is not a simple black and white matter. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that mobile apps have caused a major transition in consumer behavior as well as altering the strategies embraced by major media players – and we’ll continue to see blurring between the boundaries of mobile apps, mobile web, and the ways that consumers consume and discover content.

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