Consumers Spend More Time with Mobile as Online Growth Slows - eMarketer

Newsletters Sign-Up

Plans & Pricing

Does My Company Subscribe?

Consumers Spend More Time with Mobile as Online Growth Slows

Ad dollars slow to catch up

October 23, 2012

The shift to mobile is on. According to eMarketer estimates, time spent using mobile devices for activities such as internet and app use, gaming, music and others has more than doubled in the past two years.

This year, the amount of time US consumers spent using mobile devices—excluding talk time—will grow 51.9% to an average 82 minutes per day, up from just 34 minutes in 2010, eMarketer estimates.

Mobile growth comes as time spent online, which includes desktop and laptop computers and other nonmobile connected devices such as internet-connected TVs, will continue rising but at a slowed pace from previous years. This year, eMarketer estimates time spent online will grow just 3.6% to an average 173 minutes per day, compared to 7.7% growth in 2011 to 167 minutes per day.

Average Time Spent per Day with Major Media by US Adults, 2009-2012 (minutes)

Since online already accounts for an average of nearly 3 hours of time spent with media each day, double-digit growth rates are unlikely even as consumers continue to do more activities and spend more time with their desktop and laptop computers.

Mobile, by contrast, is growing quickly from a small base—and growth in time spent is also being boosted by fast uptake of smartphones and tablets, which have still penetrated only a minority of all consumers. As more US consumers continue to acquire these devices, and current owners shift more of their digital activities to mobile and portable devices, mobile is grabbing an ever-greater share of time with all media—potentially at the expense of faster online growth.

Share of Average Time Spent per Day with Select Media by US Adults vs. US Ad Spending Share, 2009-2012 (% of total)

This shift has been problematic for some advertising publishers who have not necessarily seen ad dollars follow suit. Even on the desktop web, the share of ad dollars is still playing catch-up to the share of time spent with the medium—and that game is even further behind on mobile, which will see just 1.6% of US ad spending this year even as adults spend an average of 11.7% of their media time with their phones and tablets.

While mobile advertising is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years—eMarketer estimates that overall US mobile advertising spending will reach $2.61 billion this year before rising to nearly $12 billion in 2016—there are some significant barriers that both marketers and ad publishers will have to overcome before mobile ad spending will achieve parity with the share of time spent by consumers on mobile devices.

eMarketer bases its estimates of time spent with media on an analysis of estimates from other research firms, consumer media consumption and device adoption trends.

Corporate subscribers have access to all eMarketer analyst reports, articles, data and more. Join the over 750 companies already benefiting from eMarketer’s approach. Learn more.

Check out today’s other articles, “Marketers Deploy, Measure 'Non-Promotional' Content” and “For Online Buyers in Latin America, Purchase Path Begins at Retailer Site.”


  • Go beyond the articles:

    eMarketer Products

    You've never experienced research like this.

  • Hear from our clients:

    Customer Stories

    Nearly all Fortune 500 companies rely on us.

  • Want to learn more?

    Contact Us

    Inquire about corporate subscriptions today.