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.
The Super Bowl is one of the world’s top media events. This year’s contest, Super Bowl XLVII, was hosted in New Orleans and drew an average of 108.4 million viewers, the third largest audience in U.S. television history. According to Nielsen, previous Super Bowls captured the top two U.S. TV audiences, with last year’s event drawing 111.3 million viewers and the previous year’s attracting 110.0 million.
While the contest on the field pitted the San Francisco 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens, an equally fierce battle for consumer engagement was waged across multiple screens. As the world’s top brands paid up to $4 million to air 30 second television spots, consumers were more distracted than ever, accessing mobile apps and social media in droves. Twitter reported 24.1 million Super Bowl-related tweets, the most popular of which focused on Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, the Superdome power outage and key game moments. Facebook reported similar increases in conversations around these topics.
Mobile Apps Make TV the Second Screen
In this report, Flurry finds that mobile appears to have become the first screen. The implication is that, from this day forward, as marketers advertise on television, they must ensure that the content is sufficiently compelling to pull the consumer away from her smartphone or tablet. While TV may continue to be widely regarded as the first screen, Flurry believes that brands need to reverse that logic in order to reach and engage their consumers.
For this study, Flurry measured U.S. app session starts, per second, over the course of this year’s Super Bowl, last year’s Super Bowl, and the equivalent time period on the Sunday before this year’s Super Bowl (to establish a baseline for an average Sunday) from 3 PM PST to 8 PM PST. Flurry Analytics is used by 275,000 apps, including many of the most-used apps, with aggregate daily usage sessions of 2.4 billion.
For this analysis, we estimated U.S. app session starts occurring on Super Bowl Sunday by sampling from our own data and extrapolating based on the proportion of the market that Flurry "sees." To be able to compare across last year's to this year's Super Bowl, we created an index where “100” represents a baseline for app usage. Let’s start by looking at how this year’s Super Bowl app activity compared to that of last year’s.
The chart above shows this year’s Super Bowl in blue compared to last year’s Super Bowl in grey. The spark lines show application session starts in the U.S. sampled from Flurry’s system, per second. The way to interpret the chart is that if the line is moving up, consumers are picking up their phones (or tablets). And if the line is moving down, consumers are putting down their phones (or tablets). In other words, when something on the TV cannot sufficiently hold the consumer’s attention, she often reaches for her connected device. The advantage for using mobile app usage as a signal is that we can accurately measure when consumers are interacting with the mobile apps. In this way, we can distinguish between active (consumer is using the "app") and passive use (app is just "on"). Using mobile app usage as a signal, the events to which consumers paid the most attention were the National Anthems, Halftime shows and close finishes.
A few structural differences to the length, shape and height of the curves are worth noting. First, last year’s Super Bowl was faster up through the first half, as we see that Madonna’s half time show started earlier compared to Beyoncé’s. Additionally, this year’s Super Bowl was further extended due to the 34-minute power outage in the Superdome just after the beginning of the 3rd quarter. Relative to last year’s Super Bowl, consumers began picking up their phones and tablets en masse during this period. Next, this year’s Super Bowl curve (blue) sits higher than last year’s curve (grey), which indicates that there was more relative app usage in the U.S. this year versus last year. Specifically, we measure a 19% increase in app usage between last year’s Super Bowl versus this year’s.
The chart above plots app usage during this year’s Super Bowl against the same time period from the Sunday before. This gives us a sense for how much application usage varies on a normal Sunday compared to Super Bowl Sunday. Overall, total app usage dropped in aggregate by only 5% from the Sunday before to Super Bowl Sunday, which suggests that the Super Bowl largely failed to curb consumer app usage when compared to normal behavior. The height and the shapes of the curves are very similar. More notable differences did appear from just before the Super Bowl started up until about half way into the second quarter of the game, where consumers appeared to be paying more attention to the Super Bowl (i.e., the blue line was modestly below the grey line for that period). We also note a spike in app usage during the Jeep halftime report during the sports analyst commentary, followed by a plummet in activity during Beyoncé’s performance. Next, during the outage, consumers began using their apps. After gameplay resumed, app usage was very similar to a normal Sunday except for the last minutes of this year’s close Super Bowl finish, as the 49ers mounted an exciting, narrowly-missed comeback.
Next we studied how app usage varied during different times during the Super Bowl: while the game was on, when ads were broadcasted, during halftime and during the power outage. We used app activity during the game as a baseline.
The overall finding was that app usage did not vary greatly between commercials and game play, with only a slight increase in app session starts during ads in this Super Bowl, and an even smaller decline in session starts during the last Super Bowl. In contrast, session starts dropped by nearly ten percent during this year’s halftime. That suggests that while Beyoncé was compelling enough to cause viewers to put down their phones, much of the game and many of the ads were not. The large increase in app session starts during the power outage provides additional evidence that TV cannot hold attention without compelling content. Consumers turned to their smaller screens in great numbers as soon as there was a lull in the action on TV.
Of course, there is variation within these averages. Groups particularly prone to starting app sessions during ads include: Photo & Video Enthusiasts, Real Estate followers, Small Business Owners, TV Lovers and Movie Lovers. For your convenience, you can find Flurry (psychographic) Personas listed here. Consumers less inclined to start app sessions during ads include iPad Users, Food Enthusiasts, Catalog Shoppers, Fashionistas and Home & Garden Enthusiasts. Those most inclined to take a break from their apps and watch the halftime show included Home & Garden Pros, Health & Fitness Enthusiasts, Fashionistas, Catalog Shoppers and Food Enthusiasts. Groups whose app use climbed most during the power outage – suggesting that they were paying closest attention to the game at other times – were Males, Seniors and Sports Fans.
Mobile Is Killing The TV Star
Ratings from Nielsen confirm that people continue to sit in front of TVs on Super Bowl Sunday. However, the fact that overall app usage declined by less than just 5% compared to same time period on the prior Sunday suggests that a large amount of consumers’ attention is spent in apps, even as they sit in front of the TV. This should cause advertisers to question the value of paying a premium for Super Bowl ads when the attention premium they command is eroding. That’s particularly true for some groups. For example, overall app usage by Moms, during the time the Super Bowl was on, dropped by less than two percent compared to the previous week. While Tide’s “Miracle Stain” ad was certainly entertaining, it appears that the “Mom” target market was not paying attention.
The price of a Super Bowl ad pays for a lot on mobile whether that’s in app advertising, sponsored content, in-app product placement or branded apps, and Flurry believes many marketers may benefit from reconsidering their media mixes in light of evidence in this report showing that unless exceptionally interesting things are happening on TV, a significant and increasing amount of consumer attention is spent using smartphones and tablets.
New Consumer Behavior. New Strategy.
Brands who continue to believe in the potential of TV during major events such as the Super Bowl must also now understand the multi-screening behavior of their target market, and take that into account in developing their campaigns. For example, marketers targeting Fashionistas would be well-served by scheduling ads to run during or near the half-time show, while running in-app ads during the game itself. The reverse strategy would apply to groups such as Sports Enthusiasts. These results also have implications for those who wish to run integrated campaigns across screens: those will only be effective if the TV portion is compelling enough to pull attention away from the screens in the hands of the audience.
With the holy grail of TV events disrupted, advertisers need to take note. The winner of the Screen Bowl is the smartphone. Mobile is here. Mobile is the new first screen.
During the month of November, Flurry reached a major milestone, measuring more than a trillion unique events completed inside of mobile apps by consumers. The magnitude of this number, and what it means to an industry barely over four years old, that has already generated tens of billions of dollars, is unprecedented. An industry has shot up around Flurry in a way that no one, anywhere, could have imagined.
So it was against this backdrop that I began reading a series of differing investment theses written by Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures (What Has Changed), Dave McClure of 500 Startups (What Hasn’t Changed) and Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz (The Product Lens). The gist was about the cyclical nature of investing between consumer internet and enterprise companies, with another suggestion to focus on product over finances. The debate is entertaining, and not surprising. It validates a theory I’ve held since the mid-nineties about the fundamental difference between entrepreneurs and investors. Simply put, entrepreneurs focus on opportunity while investors focus on risk.
The venture industry wants familiarity, so it talks about consumer versus enterprise. The web comes with an understood set of metrics like page views, visits, unique users, returning visitors and bounce rates, to name a few. And there’s still a standard way of buying traffic (SEM) and getting traffic organically (SEO). There’s a clear index and path to the web, called Google, and most VCs understand Google economics. They understand the lifetime value vs. cost per acquisition equation. They can value businesses accordingly.
What the venture industry doesn’t yet understand is mobile and apps. Traffic acquisition is still an art more than a measurable science. No one has defined a set of metrics that the venture industry can use to universally compare the value of one app property to another, and business models on mobile are still new. On Sand Hill Road, the best line I hear is that “99 cents is the new free,” referring to the freemium model, but few truly understand what it means.
Mobile and apps are gobbling up the web and consumer Internet, and that’s where the opportunity is. And the opportunity has never been bigger. All around me, I see entrepreneurs living it, loving it and collecting it “99 cents” at a time. Meanwhile, the VCs are debating it.
Mobile App Growth: Measured by Flurry
In the month of November, we measured over a trillion events from over 250,000 applications created by more than 85,000 developers. Events are actions completed by consumers inside apps such as completing a game level, making a restaurant reservation or tagging a song. In November, we also measured over 60 billion sessions, which is the start and a stop of an application on a mobile smart device. The chart below shows the growth in events tracked since May of 2008, when we first made our analytics service available to developers. This growth reflects the growth of the app economy.
Mobile Apps: Dominating the Web and Challenging Television
The chart below updates Flurry’s analysis comparing time spent in mobile apps on smartphones and tablets to time spent on the web using a browser. For web usage on desktops, laptops and smart devices, we build a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa. For mobile applications, we use Flurry Analytics data, now gathering data from over 250,000 applications. This time around, we add time spent on television using data released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2010 and 2011. Note that the bureau hasn’t yet released their 2012 numbers, but given the maturity of the TV market, we assume that time spent on TV is flat year-over-year.
Between December 2011 and December 2012, the average time spent inside mobile apps by a U.S. consumer grew 35%, from 94 minutes to 127 minutes. By comparison, the average time spent on the web declined 2.4%, from 72 minutes to 70 minutes. By our measurement, U.S. consumers are spending 1.8 times more time in apps than on the web.
The chart also shows that time spent in apps already totals 76% of time spent on television. With new content released via thousands of new apps each day, we expect this trend to continue. In fact, we ultimately expect apps on tablets and smartphones to challenge broadcast television as the dominant channel for media consumption. Compared to the 60-year-old television industry, apps are just over 4 years old. In particular, tablets will drive growth in app consumption in 2013 as TV-style content and major programming moves to the tablet. Most TV Networks have already adjusted to a dual screen world and are synchronizing their TV content with their tablet app content. We believe that, with the introduction of connected TVs, TV shows will behave like apps.
Media, Games and Entertainment: The 80/20 Rule
Finally, we measured the time spent using mobile apps per app category across iOS and Android smart devices. For this comparison, we use Flurry data over the month of November 2012 as a baseline, and then adjust based on Flurry’s penetration per category. The chart below shows that 80% of the total time spent is across gaming, social networking and entertainment categories.
The stats on gaming are particularly interesting. Returning to the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey data, the average U.S. consumer spent 1.2 hours (72 minutes) per day playing a game, on any platform. Our data shows that 43% of time spent in mobile apps, 55 minutes, is spent in games. This means that mobile gaming on tablets and smartphones has absorbed 76% (55 of the 72 minutes) of the total time consumers spend on gaming, anywhere. Now, that's disruptive.
In just 4 years, mobile apps have overtaken the web and are beginning to challenge television, the top media channel. As we enter 2013, the app industry shows no signs of slowing. On the contrary, we continue to see a strong flow of new devices and new apps activated in our network. While VCs debate what part of the investment cycle we’re in and how to manage risk, all entrepreneurs need to know - from one entrepreuneur to another - is that you're witnessing the opportunity of a lifetime.
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.