Publishers' 'mobile gap' with revenues painfully persists

The Wall Street Journal

The mobile conundrum persists with traditional and online publishers: nice audience growth, sluggish revenues.

"News and information outlets ranging from the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to Business Insider and About.com all can point to rapid growth in mobile usage," The Wall Street Journal writes Monday. "Time spent on publishers’ mobile offerings jumped 40% in the 12 months through July and now accounts for 55% of total time spent on their properties, up from 42% two years ago, according to estimates by measurement specialist comScore."

But reports, earnings calls and interviews all underscore how "revenue isn't keeping pace—by a long shot—creating what industry executives are calling a 'mobile gap.'"

The act of hawking ads on mobile devices is no simple task.

"It is hard to show mobile users enough ads, traditional ad formats like "banners" perform miserably, and publishers can't easily do sophisticated tracking and targeting of ads. These issues extend from publishers' mobile websites to their apps."

As has been clear for along time, Facebook, Google and Twitter lure the preponderance of those ad dollar. "Facebook alone accounted for 37% of all U.S. mobile display advertising revenue in 2014, according to eMarketer."

And, at The New York Times Co., "more than half of visits to the company's digital properties now come from smartphones and tablets, according to the chief revenue officer, Meredith Kopit Levien. "

But, as was clear in the company's second quarter, mobile devices constituted a mere 15 percent of its digital ad revenue. Those figures "are definitely lagging audience. No question," she says.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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