Flurry now measures apps used on more than 1 billion smartphones and tablets each month. As connected devices reach critical mass, marketers are more seriously incorporating mobile into the marketing mix. But there are pros and cons. While the collective size of the mobile audience is rivaling that of TV and other media, it still requires aggregating the audiences of many apps to reach what can be reached through a few TV programs. That said, the numbers are likely closer than you think. Additionally, mobile offers unique ways to engage consumers given its “always on, always present” characteristics.
In this report, we look into what it takes to reach comparably sized audiences across different media like television, print, online and mobile apps. We also drill down into how the size and engagement of the mobile app audience varies across days of the week and hours of the day, and how it presents unique opportunities.
Let’s start by considering when people use apps.
The chart above shows how app usage varies over the course of a day, cut by weekend versus weekday. Data used for this chart comes from the top 250 iOS and top 250 Android apps measured by Flurry Analytics during February 2013. Through the top apps Flurry sees, app usage spikes during primetime to a peak of 52 million consumers. Make a mental note of that number, because we’ll revisit it a little later.
Comparing weekday to weekend curves, the general shape is similar. App usage ebbs overnight and then grows throughout the day, peaking in the early evening. While weekends also have a distinct primetime window, they see higher daytime usage across the day between 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, ostensibly when someone would normally be working. However, the overall difference in audience size during the day between weekdays and weekends is not substantially different. Let’s look at 11:00 AM, for example, when the number of people using apps varies the most between weekdays and weekends. The size of the audience during this time is only 25% greater on weekends. Looking at it another way, this means that during the normal workday, people use apps at least 75% as much as they do on weekends. This creates a unique opportunity for advertisers to reach desired audiences over the course of the day via mobile.
The App Audience: Big But Fragmented
Now, let’s return to that 52 million primetime app user number. To get to an audience of that size, you’d need to combine the circulation of the largest 200 weekend newspapers in the U.S. or combine the audiences for the 3 most highly rated primetime TV shows during a good TV week (e.g., The Big Bang Theory).
We believe this comparison says a couple of important things about the app audience: first that it has reached critical mass, and second that it is still highly fragmented relative to more traditional forms of media. Additionally, while we don’t compare costs in this study, it is far more affordable to reach an audience on mobile versus Print or TV.
Now let’s consider how the app audience compares to the audience that is reachable through larger digital devices like laptops and computers. Flurry measured 224 million monthly active users of mobile apps in the United States in February of this year. During the same month, comScore counted 221 million desktop and laptop users of the top 50 digital properties in the United States. From this, we conclude that the U.S. audience that is reachable through apps, albeit more fragmented, is now roughly equal to that which can be reached on laptops and desktops.
There’s An Audience for That, on Mobile.
Earlier this year, Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne showed that “There has been a 50 percent collapse in broadcast TV audience ratings since 2002.” As the prized 18 – 49 year old demo is further lured to digital media, marketers need to adjust. But the mobile industry also needs to do more to make media planning and buying more efficient for advertisers and agencies.
The more mobile ad networks increase their ability to deliver the right combination of reach and targeting, the easier it will be for advertisers to invest in mobile and leverage the unique value it offers. Mobile, in particular, can deliver different ads to different users within the same app or the same ad to similar types of people across different apps, based on the varying interests of those individuals. Dynamic segmentation is much more possible on mobile compared to earlier forms of broadcast media. Now, fast forward one year from now, by which time Flurry estimates the installed base of smartphones and tablets will have doubled to 2 billion active devices per month. That should leave marketers of nearly every product thinking: on mobile, there’s an audience for that.
On broadcast television, brands seek to reach their target audiences as efficiently as possible. For example, a brand might run a TV campaign targeting 24 – 35 year old females through prime-time shows that reach that desired audience.
Prime-time, from 7 pm to 11 pm, is widely known as the part of the day that attracts the most viewers on television. In advertising parlance, this is referred to as a “daypart.” And given its popularity, networks charge significantly more for ads aired during this time.
On radio, “drive time” is the most valuable daypart. Online, the evening has seen an increase in relative usage with the popularity of social networks like Facebook, instant messaging like Skype and video-on-demand services like Hulu.
This report focuses on dayparting in mobile apps. Through Flurry Analytics, Flurry tracks more than 110,000 mobile apps on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and J2ME. The sample used for this study assembled a bundle of popular iOS and Android apps across games, social networking, music, news, sports and communication categories. In total, this group of apps is used by more than 15 million consumers each day.
For a point of comparison, we overlaid our mobile app daypart graph onto a chart shared by Michael Zimbalist, VP Research for the New York Times, in a guest post he authored for AdAge. Let’s take a look at the findings.
The chart shows the percent of its own total user-base that a given medium reaches, each hour of the day, starting at 5 am. In keeping with Mr. Zimbalist’s analysis, we also limit our mobile app data set to include those 15 years of age and older. For each curve, the percent displayed on the y-axis relates to the proportion of consumers reached during a given hour on that respective medium. Note that the total audience size for each medium reached varies in terms of its own absolute number of users. We’ve chosen to overlay Flurry’s data onto this chart to compare the shape of the curves, which indicate the relative concentration of usage during different times of the day. For reference, we shaded the hours that make up the prime-time television slot.
Our analysis shows that, compared to relative TV viewing and Internet usage, mobile app usage is higher from 6 am to 6 pm. And while the relative percent of television viewers surpasses that of mobile app users during prime-time, mobile app usage continues to climb until 9 pm, exceeding relative Internet usage throughout the prime-time window. Mobile consumers are using apps either instead of, or along-side prime-time television and the Internet. In fact, the percent of relative mobile app usage is greater than that of relative Internet usage every hour of every day.
To provide a tangible example of audience size for mobile apps, we estimate that the combined number of active iOS and Android devices in the U.S. is approximately 110 million. Taking 10 am as a daypart of mobile apps (the red curve), 30% of iOS and Android device owners, or 33 million consumers, use an application during this hour. In theory, apps are like TV shows, in that they reach specific audiences. With the eventual ability to target apps by various criteria such as age, gender, dayparts and more, advertisers can one day target a tightly defined audience that uses different applications.
To put the sheer size of the mobile application audience into perspective, consider that the American Idol finale, which airs once per season, reaches approximately 20 million viewers on that day. Mobile apps already reach more than 20 million U.S. consumers per hour, from 7 am to 11 pm. That’s already the equivalent of 17 American Idol finales each day, or more than 6,200 American Idol finales per year.
With Google recently acquiring Motorola and Apple gearing up to launch the iPhone 5 this fall, these numbers will continue to grow. Further, with companies like Amazon pushing harder into tablets with its recently announced Kindle Fire, and companies like Nokia and Microsoft partnering to stay competitive, we can easily imagine a world of mobile apps where it’s prime-time all the time.