Publishers: mobile web or mobile app? That is the question.

This is a not a trick question. Rather, it’s a real dilemma that most publishers face.

There are a few considerations, based on The US Mobile App Report recently published by comScore.

From the study, the total U.S. digital media time spent via mobile app usage went up by 52% this past year. This fact in and of itself would seem to make a solid case for mobile app.

Digital time spent growth


At the same time, 52% of digital media time spent is on mobile app, out of 60% of total mobile activity. Desktop is trailing at 40%, clearly over taken by overall mobile activity at this moment in time.

Digital media time spent by platform 2


When it comes to mobile apps, there is an important nuance that should be noted, specifically, mobile apps can run on smartphones as well as tablets. According to the study, approximately 7 out of every 8 minutes on mobile devices are app-based activities. To further drill down, mobile app activities edged out ever slightly on smartphones at 88% compared to 82% on tablets. This makes sense in that there are larger mobile screen real-estate on tablets, where mobile browsing behavior is often closer to desktop behavior. Therefore, it’s more natural to use a mobile browser on tablet and use mobile apps on smartphones.

The implications for this means that while the data different is small, publishers who are pondering mobile app vs mobile web should consider the content they’re publishing as a determining factor. If the content format and user experience is better for your users to mimic that of desktop experience, then optimizing your mobile web experience may be a better investment than developing a mobile app. If your users are likely going to be accessing your content mostly through smartphones, then perhaps a mobile app would be more impactful to your bottom line.



Mobile app vs browser split

On the flip side of the coin, if you invest the time, effort, resources to build a mobile app for your content, will the audience come? This is where you’ll likely see the challenges of mobile app. The data on monthly download of mobile apps shows that 65.5% of people don’t download any apps in a month. Of the ones who do download apps monthly, half of them download 1-2 apps per month. Clearly, the adoption rate for downloading apps on a regular basis is low. As a publisher, if you’ve developed a mobile app to distribute your content, promoting the mobile app will be essential to the success of the app.


Number of apps downloads per month

Another concern for publishers developing their branded mobile app is that most apps actively used are not apps by publishers. In fact, the data shows that most of the actively used apps are social networking apps where users consume content actively but the content came from various sources. Even news organizations’ apps didn’t make the top 25.

Top 25 mobile apps


At the end of the day, for publishers needing to determine their mobile strategy – mobile web or mobile app, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Every publisher will have different needs and challenges based on their content and business model.

Have more questions about mobile app vs mobile web or need an expert to talk you through your options? We can help, give us a ping!

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