- July 11, 2014

Is Mobile Bringing About the Death of the PC? Not Exactly

There have been no shortage of recent media coverage about mobile eating the web, and Comscore’s latest report about mobile apps now accounting for more than half of digital time spent has probably contributed to some of these perceptions. But sometimes it’s worth taking a step back to get a little perspective about the realities of a situation.

While there is no doubt that the growth in mobile has been dramatic, for the most part it is not coming at the expense of desktop computer usage. Put another way, most of the growth of mobile has been activity that is incremental to what’s happening on existing platforms. Consider Comscore data over the past year:

Time Spent on Digital Media

Here we can see that mobile consumption has clearly exploded, with a 44% gain in mobile app usage and a 38% gain in mobile web usage. This has contributed to mobile growing its share of digital media time spent from 50% to 60% in the past year and owning a clear majority of time spent. But importantly, desktop usage has held up in the face of increased competition from mobile for consumers’ attention, with a negligible overall decline in total time spent from 477 billion minutes to 466 billion minutes. The net result of is that we’ve seen a 20% overall increase in time spent on digital in the past year, which means a lot more opportunity to reach consumers and monetize content.

These trends have clear implications for the digital advertising market. Importantly, it means that as dollars increasingly shift to mobile they will not necessarily come at the expense of desktop-based display advertising. It’s very likely that market will remain stable and most content companies will not be at substantial risk of trading dollars for dimes. Instead, mobile ad dollars will for the most part be incremental to existing display ad revenue and will pull from other media – most likely print and radio.

So let’s bear in mind that as much as it may look like mobile is eating desktop, the reality is that it’s not a zero-sum game. Desktop is doing just fine, its display ad dollars are not under imminent threat, and there is plenty of time for the mobile ad market to mature to ensure that the shift to mobile is not a disruptive event for the vast majority of digital media companies.

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