Declines in Online Ad Revenues Partly Due to Ignoring Mobile Visitors

SeekingAlpha posted an interesting case study about the New York
Times and its dropping online revenues
. Here’s a key visual:

mobify ad revenue 1

As part of my job, I spend a lot of time looking for good research on
mobile and here’s a recent report from Opera – colored very
similarly – about the number of desktop web pages served to mobile

mobify ad revenue 2


These trends are not tied to each other in a linear fashion. However,
one thing is certain – every time a mobile visitor goes to a desktop
webpage, ad impressions are wasted
and the publisher loses revenue.
Flash ads don’t work. Neither do the desktop-format ads, like the
highscraper and the horizontal bar. Users don’t see them clearly and
don’t click as a result. CPC is down and CPM isn’t as high as it could
be if true mobile ads were used. Opera Mini graph might as well be
called “wasted opportunities for mobile advertising”.

But wait – the New York Times has a mobile site and an iPhone app, with
mobile ads on them! Here is the problem – visiting desktop links on
mobile does not invoke a mobile-optimized, monetizable experience
Search, Twitter and Digg links accessed by mobile users point to the
desktop site. NYT hasn’t figured out the way to connect the two together
yet. As link sharing and search drive an ever-increasing portion of
mobile traffic, the dominant mobile use case is ignored.

How bad is the problem? Today, the share of mobile traffic for desktop
websites is already in the 2-5% range, reaching 20% for specialized
sites about sports and weather. Mobile traffic is growing roughly
200-300% a year. In two years, the mobile use case for desktop sites
could reach the 15-20% revenue point. This can’t be ignored, so we
recommend for every web publisher to deal with it today – either by
building out a free mobile view with Mobify, or investing in a
well-integrated mobile presence.