For ‘Mobile-First’ Publishers, Revenue Lags

So-called “mobile-first” publishers get a majority of their traffic from non-desktop devices, but they’re finding that ad revenues aren’t following suit.

Despite the fact that services such as Twitter, Pandora, and The Weather Channel now say around half of their usage comes from mobile, few extract anything close to half of their revenues from the channel. For example, during its earnings call yesterday Pandora reported that 70 percent of all listening now happens on mobile or “non-traditional” devices. Despite that fact, only around half of its advertising revenues comes from mobile, suggesting it’s essentially being propped up by other channels, such as online.

According to data from Facebook, around a third of its traffic now comes from mobile devices, while Twitter reports that it accounts for over half of published tweets. Those companies have to done little to nothing to monetize their mobile audiences to date, even though they continue to grow.

One company that’s proud to tout its mobile focus is the Weather Channel. According to ComScore, the firm’s desktop site racked up 1.1 billion page views in October, while 1.3 billion pages were viewed using phones or tablets. It’s unclear whether its ad sales mix has kept pace, although that’s highly unlikely by all indications. The Weather Channel was unavailable for comment.

Despite the hype around mobile, the fact remains that it’s just harder to extract revenues there. Marketers and advertisers have yet to dedicate substantial budgets to the medium, and consumers are now used to receiving mobile content for free. Mobile ad rates aren’t exactly the highest either. That leaves publishers in the position of having to follow their audiences but without much assurance that doing so will benefit their businesses. As a result Pandora, for one, is reluctant to place all of its eggs in that basket.

“We’re focused on ensuring a great, personalized radio experience for any person, anytime, anywhere — regardless of device — so each way people can stream Pandora has our attention,” a spokesperson said.

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