Time Spent Apping

A piece came out in TechCrunch yesterday concerning the increased time people are spending in mobile apps.

Kicking Television

(Photo credit: dhammza)

According to their analysis time spent with mobile apps (127 minutes a day) has surpassed time spent on the web via a desktop (70 minutes) and is gaining on TV usage (168 minutes).  It’s an interesting comparison and the piece goes on to say the usual things about how mobile may be the future but it’s still an unknown business model for marketers and investors (except for the carriers – that business model seems to be pretty well-defined and pretty damn good!).

I have a few thoughts I’d like to share.  First, while the piece implies that TV is somehow threatened by this, the fact that TV use has not declined should demonstrate that it’s not going anywhere.  In fact, according to the data presented in the piece, TV usage has increased over the last two years.  What’s not clear from the piece is what is being consumed on the TV.  Does watching streaming video via Netflix on my TV count as TV?  I’m assuming this does include time-shifted TV which may or may not include watching the commercials that are a piece of commercial TV’s business model.

Second, as someone who rode a train two hours each day for many years, I can tell you that there is an awful lot of downtime.  For the last few of those years when I had a smartphone, I began to use some of my commuting time to do some of the things cited in the study – social networking, catch up on news, etc.  No streaming video then but I’m sure I’d be watching it now.  All of those minutes are incremental involvement with content (and the marketing that supports the content) I otherwise might have foregone.  It’s pretty easy to spend a few minutes of downtime at lunch on your mobile device.  I don’t see these numbers as negatives.

Finally, the piece does ask the right question which is how companies can capitalize on all of this mobile activity.  There is too little information  it’s too hard to scale, and the marketing model within apps is still not impactful.  The app world is way more fragmented than is the TV world or the worlds of other “mass” media.  Then again, the app world is only five years old (dating it to when the first iPhone came out).  The commercial web is still searching for a business model in many ways and it’s going on twenty.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.  What do you think?

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