Apps mean the mobile web is turning unmeasurable

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ic_launder_market_128x128An interesting “claim” landed in my in-box this morning. Quoting stats from Comscore, mobile social network Flirtomatic is seeing twice as many page views per user than any other mobile internet site accessed on smartphones in the US. The British company then goes on to boast that this puts Flirtomatic ahead of both Twitter and Facebook. The ‘dating’ site scored 721 pages per user per month compared with Twitter at 278 and Facebook at 211. Sounds impressive right?

Don’t just take their word for it though, here’s a quote from Comscore’s report:

“Established social networks can learn from their mobile cousins… Not only is Flirtomatic the top social networking site for engagement but it’s the top site for average pages views across all mobile internet sites in the US.”

Cue high fives all round back at Flirtomatic’s London office.

Not so fast.

Comscore’s stats only refer to browser usage on smartphones, and as such don’t cover accessing Twitter or Facebook via a dedicated app. Who accesses Twitter on their smartphone through a web browser? I certainly don’t and nor does anybody else I know of. Just witness the number of Twitter apps in Apple’s App Store. Or on Android or Nokia’s Symbian or any of the other smartphone platforms.

The same is, of course, true for Facebook. And if we’re measuring smartphone usage only, the results are likely to be even more skewed in favor of mobile apps.

In other words, the rise of the app store renders pages views a meaningless metric on the mobile web.

(Unsurprisingly, Flirtomatic doesn’t offer any kind of mobile app and instead pushes all of its users to a WAP-based browser offering.)

Moving forward, the situation with regards to ‘page views’ on the mobile web is destined to become even more hazy. Smartphone take up is on the increase as ‘free’ operating systems such as Android and Symbian combined with commodity hardware keeps pushing prices down. While so-called dumb phones are getting smarter too. Native Twitter and Facebook clients have already begun appearing on low cost feature phones, such as the latest devices from INQ.

  • Ouriel Ohayon

    That is not totally correct. Comscore is building its stats based on a sample extrapolated to the size of the internet. The same will take place with mobile apps. But a different kind of actors are in place to provide this measurement: Apple and your mobile operators who know exactly which bit of data is coming from.

    Apple is unlikely to provide stats on their users, but i see how a comscore or a nielsen (or a new comer) will partner will cell operators to measure inbound and outbound data based on a sample of users.

    • Steve O'Hear

      I didn’t mean to imply that the problem won’t be solved, just that page views as a metric is pretty much useless on smartphones *if* a native client exists. It’s also harder to measure out in the public and therefore compare apples with apples.

  • Mark Curtis

    Good point Steve. We agree – measurement is going to get harder for a while. Yes – we are currently all browser based (web too). In fact we’ve submitted an iPhone app yesterday and have others planned so we’ll need to figure this (measuring usage accurately on apps) out too.

    Also – it’s not all about apps out there with normal mobile users. Getjar have been on record as saying that they get many more downloads of their Facebook “app” which actually just launches the mobile web pages than they do of the Facebook app itself.

    The Comscore validation did make us cheery it’s true but only for about 5 minutes. There’s still a lot of work to do and mobile is moving waay too fast to relax and think the job is done.

  • Patrick Mork

    Mark is appsolutely correct ;) Facebook currently does about 4 million downloads a month on GetJar and these aren’t of the Facebook app but of a shortcut to their mobile site. That shortcut is merchandised like an app and – for all intents and purposes – is enough for most consumers. Especially if they are on feature phones. Many services, including Flirtomatic’s are more then good enough as a web-only experience. Native apps are great if they provide better features and a media rich experience but – particularly if you’re looking at emerging markets – aren’t always necessary. What makes GetJar unique in this respect is that as an app store we allow developers and brands to merchandise both apps and mobile sites equally. It’s up to consumers to decide whether which they prefer. Which is the way it should be.


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