HEY, THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!

Smartphones lead to decline in Web use

In 1997, the year I graduated from high school, my parents gave me a cell phone for graduation. I was, after all, going off into the big bad world of college. It was a black Nokia with nighttime illuminating buttons. Yuck it up, youngsters. It was hip, and it certainly was more advanced than my best friend’s bag phone.

Fast forward to 2001 when I landed my first job as a journalist. I was working as a photographer for an NBC affiliate in Alabama. The station was in the number one ratings slot in the market and was pretty financially sound. We even had the cool (insert gasp here) pagers that alerted us to station information, as well as breaking news headlines from around the world. Life was good. I had made it. I had a personal cell phone, work cell phone AND a pager.

I would receive a page, log on to a computer to find out more and then grab a phone to call the office and ask if the assignment editor needed me to come in. Technology is great, right? I never imagined back then that all of those efforts would one day be possible on a single device. However, the devices that have given us easier access to the World Wide Web are the same devices that have moved consumers away from the Web, itself.

In June 2011, which is a lifetime ago when discussing technology, a mobile analytics firm, Flurry, released a report comparing the amount of time people spent using mobile apps and mobile sites versus the amount of time information gatherers logged on to personal computers. Flurry found that consumers spent nine percent more of their time accessing mobile apps rather than getting information from a desktop computer.

Flurry noted that the increase of mobile app use was likely due to accessing Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites more times, rather than simply increasing their time spent during one use. The Flurry data gathered also showed how we were consuming data in May 2011, which I would venture to guess is much the same today. Thirty-two percent of the time we spent online for social networking, nine percent for news, seven percent for entertainment and 47 percent for games.

Note that Flurry’s data showed consumers were already spending more time on mobile devices than time on computers in 2011. That’s two years ahead of what Gartner Research predicted back in 2010. But the transition to mobile consumption didn’t stop there. The trend has altered even further into how we access data on our smartphones and tablets.

Now, I rarely log on to the Internet at home to search for anything. I also rarely use my phone’s mobile browser. I have a Weather Channel app on my iPhone to check the temperature, a Facebook app and Twitter app to go right to my social networking feeds, an app to buy movie tickets, an app to download music and an app to check email. I even have apps for news. I have little need to log on to the World Wide Web outside of the office. In fact, in most cases, it is even easier for me to grab my phone and click an app than it is to log on the Web through a browser and search for what I need even when I am at my desk in front of a traditional computer.

And it seems I am not alone in my application love affair. According to a BusinessInsider.com post from March 20, 2013, “Apps are the Internet portal of choice for U.S. mobile consumers.” The article notes that Neilsen numbers from August of last year show that minutes spent each month in mobile applications was 4.6 times the time used accessing the Web. During the time between March 2011 and August 2012, mobile app use grew 200 percent while mobile Web use only increased by 75 percent, the BusinessInsider.com article states. The most popular mobile activity, according to the article, is gaming, followed by social networking. Both of those are mostly accessed through apps. That’s no surprise. Gaming and social networking were the top ways consumers spend their time in the 2011 Flurry report, too.

Why have we switched over to using applications? Time is precious. The World Wide Web has lost its technological allure. We are no longer attracted to the bright, shiny glow of a personal computer monitor. Even though the amount of information online has increased, there isn’t much “surfing” to be done, anymore. We now want what we want, and we want it now. Using an app is a direct way to get the information consumers most need and want. Up until the end of 2011, consumers had not really gotten very app happy. However, by that time, user patterns swapped and mobile app use had overshadowed mobile web browsing by about 20 percent, according to a Mashable post.

While mobile web sites are less expensive for companies to create, it is now becoming evident that consumers want apps. If companies want to stay relevant and keep their businesses growing, apps are where it is at. Mashable reports that consumers would rather spend time downloading an app, now, to prevent wasting time on a browser later. That’s especially true if you are in the shopping or entertainment business.

While it isn’t always financially feasible for companies to bite the bullet and invest in a mobile app, businesses can’t ignore what consumers want and maybe a mobile site is better than nothing. Here’s a neat infographic that compares the pros and cons of both formats, including speed and development costs. The graphic also shows that while mobile web use has hovered between 64 and 72 minutes online from June 2010 to December 2011, mobile apps have produced a steady climb. The graph depicts almost a straight uptick from an average of 43 minutes spent using a mobile app in June 2010 to 94 minutes used in December 2011.

What do you think? Should businesses jump in the deep end and go for a mobile app, or at this point, should they wait and see if there is some new development just around the corner. Can companies afford to wait, or is it more important to stay relevant with the technology we already have?

Just can’t get enough communications talk? Here’s a link to the article that sparked this post. It’s from 2010, but is an interesting two-viewpont take on the death of the World Wide Web just more than two decades after its “birth.” Interesting takes on both sides.

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Posted on March 30, 2013, in Journalism, New Media, Public Relations, Social Media, Strategic Communications, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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