Publishers weigh options for monetizing smartphone content

The Online Publishers Association (OPA), the industry’s trade association, released the results of their study on smartphone users today. Some of the key findings include:

– Smartphone adoption is growing rapidly in the US, with penetration expected to reach 57% by 2013.

– 93% of smartphone users access content and information on their smartphone regularly.

– The rise of the third screen? 84% of smartphone owners use their mobile phone or tablet while watching TV; 64% use their PC and a mobile phone or tablet while watching TV. 

– 24% of smartphone users have purchased some sort of content on their smartphone.


While publishers may find it reassuring that an overwhelming majority of smartphone owners read content on their phone, the type of content makes a large difference. The most popular type of information people seek out on their smartphone is the weather forecast. So while 47% of smartphone owners regularly check the weather on their phone, only 29% use the device to get local news and 24% to get national news. For tablet owners, these figures rise to 41% and 37% respectively.

“The smartphone screen size provides a different experience,” OPA president Pam Horan told me. “As we look at the activities taking place on the smartphone, many of them are associated with ‘snacking’ on content – looking up an answering to a question or finding a news story that – versus the tablet, which is more of a lean-back experience”.

An especially bright note for publishers is the demand for video content on the smartphone. After checking the weather, the next most popular smartphone activity is watching videos. This bodes well for publishers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, who have made recent forays into video programming.

Of course, there is the perpetual issue of how to monetize all of this smartphone activity. Getting people to pay for mobile content remains a challenge, with only 24% of users reporting that they had purchased content on their phone. However, OPA’s study did find that those who purchase content tend to respond more favorably to ads and are twice as likely to take action after seeing an ad. iPhone owners also appear to enjoy ads more than their Android-owning counterparts and are more likely to take action after seeing an ad. 

You can read the full OPA survey here.