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When Mobile and Desktop Collide

With apps, mobile has overtaken desktop in total Internet usage, but not in web browsing

Mobile Internet usage has surpassed desktop Internet usage, according to comScore, but contrary to predictions in recent years, mobile web browsing itself is flat, if not in decline.

comScore reported that mobile reached 55% of Internet usage in January of 2014, with apps accounting for almost half of total mobile access. In fact, smartphone Internet use alone is outpacing PCs, while this year marked the first time that apps in and of themselves did the same. On the other hand, Flurry Analytics – using data from both comScore and NetMarketShare – released a study in April that shows mobile web browsing time is down 6% from 2013. But mobile app time is up 6% over that same span – not a surprise when there are so many apps now that deliver the content people seek without even needing to browse.

via comScore

via comScore

The surge in overall mobile Internet usage comes as the smartphone and tablet markets stay strong. According to the Pew Internet Project, more than 58% of American adults have smartphones, while more than 42% own tablets.

The Importance of This Information

For publishers, this means a few things:

First, there is an inherent need to optimize your website for mobile devices, particularly for app access, or have a version of your site that is designed specifically for mobile device users. This may be a lighter version of your current site, with appropriately sized images and text, as well as features like swiping and scrolling for smartphones.

Second, for tablet devices, publishers must embrace the inherent multimedia and interactive capabilities. Digital magazines did not take off on desktops because they didn’t feel or act like traditional print magazines. The tablet can create the feeling and experience that digital magazines need to survive in the digital age.

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Third, publishers would be wise to emphasize sharing rather than searching. More and more, consumers are not coming to your mobile site from search engines, but from social media.

Most of all, bear in mind that a multiplatform approach continues to be the best bet. According to comScore, almost 60% of the digital media audience in the United States visits the web via a combination of devices and “screens.” This enables publishers to hybridize content, design, formatting, and features – and gives you even more flexibility as you adapt to a changing landscape.

This post was originally published in 2011 and has been continually updated.

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