The Race to Mobile Dominance


Over the past few years, the rapid evolution of mobile devices (driven primarily by Apple’s now ubiquitous iPhone), has ushered in a new era of media consumption behavior: mobile-first.

Benedict Evans wrote a spot-on piece detailing the implications of the grand user migration from desktop to mobile devices. Without surprise, advertisers have been quick to follow their audiences, and are now putting more ad dollars towards mobile spending than on desktop. For marketers seeking to promote their brand’s product to the largest engaged audience possible, mobile has quickly become their go-to digital advertising outlet, quickly moving to second overall in total US ad spend, behind TV:


As of a result of the monumental user shift from desktop to mobile, today’s consumer technology heavyweights – namely Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon – are moving fast to capture their slice of the ever-growing mobile pie.

In what will go down in history as the Age of Social Media, we now live in a digitally social, mobile world that’s dominated primarily by Facebook, followed by a slew of other social media platforms like Instagram (owned by Facebook), Snapchat, Twitter (though in a rough patch at the moment), Pinterest (in a strong position for revenue growth), LinkedIn, and perhaps SoundCloud as well.

But what’s scary is Facebook’s stranglehold of not only social media platforms, but also mobile advertising. Most digital publishers have failed to unlock a steady stream of mobile ad revenue; clunky popups and eyesore banner ads clog limited screens on most publisher’s mobile sites. Meanwhile, Facebook’s native mobile app, occasionally interrupts your personalized, glimmering stream of highly-relevant UGC, with retargeted ads that marketers are eagerly willing to slap their products on.

Facebook’s mobile app game is so on point that mobile ads drove a whopping 78% of their total Q3 advertising revenue (with $4.5 billion overall in Q3 rev). With a slew of untapped mobile-first apps to monetize (see: Instagram, WhatsApp, though unfortunately not Snapchat), expect to see Facebook to continue riding the mobile ad wave into the clouds.

It’s no surprise that Facebook has definitely become the user’s default digital destination, with the average American now spending 40 minutes a day scrolling through their Facebook feed. Google (err – Alphabet) has good reason to worry about social’s eclipse of search’s referral traffic dominance, as social media stake is virtually nonexistent (remember those five minutes you once spent utterly confused about Google+?). Though rest assured for Alphabet, there’s little chance that people will stop Googling for buckets of information (or for that matter, heaps of products and/or services) anytime soon. What remains to be seen is how Google’s mobile-focused Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, geared to speed up mobile web page speeds, are adopted by digital publishers.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg’s digital empire has become so important for publishers, that “online publishers including giants like BuzzFeed have come to rely on Facebook for a significant part of their traffic,” writes Fortune’s Matthew Ingram. But it’s a fragile relationship between content providers and platforms, as Facebook wants your News Feed to be filled with the best content possible, though publishers have good reason to worry that Facebook won’t return the favor. While many publishers all but survive on Facebook’s referral touch, Facebook could turn the traffic hose off with a simple algorithmic tweak of their all-powerful News Feed.

As publishers now anxiously wait to see how their bet on Facebook’s native mobile Instant Articles format (a radically new kind on-platform, off-property distribution play for digital publishers) pans out, the one thing that you can be sure of is that Facebook will continue to double-down on their mobile ad efforts, for years to come.

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