Premium publishers rely on Outbrain to serve recommendations to interesting content (e.g., articles, videos and slideshows) to their readers when they are consuming content on their websites. Recently, we launched Outbrain for Mobile, which serves recommendations to readers when they are consuming content on a publisher’s mobile-optimized site from their smartphones. After several months of working with mobile-optimized sites such as CNN and Fox News, we are seeing some significant differences between traditional web and mobile site engagement.
Here are three areas where traffic from the mobile web is outperforming its desktop counterpart: individual text link engagement, monetization and weekend traffic.
1. Text link engagement
Just like on desktops, a big part of what Outbrain does on smartphones is recommend links that point back into a publisher’s own mobile content. We call these recirculation links. To the right is a screenshot of the Outbrain recommendation unit on m.cnn.com. The links under the heading “We Recommend” point back into additional pages on m.cnn.com.
Like the desktop version of our product, we use click through rate (impressions/clicks) as the base metric for measuring audience engagement. In order to compare engagement between mobile and desktop readers, we have to consider the differences in real estate. On the small screen, we serve less recirculation links due to space limitations. For example, we serve six recirculation links on cnn.com article pages, and as you can see, we serve three recirculation links on m.cnn.com.
To make a fair comparison of how readers engage with our links and to normalize the difference in the reader interface, we examine clickthrough rate at the individual link level. Based on our early data, mobile text link recommendations have a 63% greater link level clickthrough rate, compared to the same links shown to readers on desktops.
2. Individual link monetization
Publishers monetize our service via desktop and mobile in the same way, by displaying links to third-party content providers that pay Outbrain to distribute their content. Clicks on these links generate revenue, and we share a portion of that revenue with the publisher. Ensuring a good reader experience is our first priority at Outbrain, whether serving recommendations on desktop or mobile sites, so any links to third-party content on mobile installations must point to a mobile-optimized version of the content. This requirement immediately shrinks the pool of revenue-generating links we can display as not all content marketers that distribute through Outbrain (whether they are publishers or marketers) have mobile-optimized versions of their content. As a result, our recommendation engine has less revenue-generating content from which to choose.
Similar to analyzing the engagement on recirculation links, the metric to which we compare revenue-generating links is revenue per thousand impressions (RPM), or how much revenue is earned for every thousand times a link is shown. Surprisingly, even with the limitation of having less content to display, the amount of revenue that publishers are generating on their mobile sites is 60% higher on a per link level than what we see on their regular websites.
3. Weekend traffic
Another interesting trend is that overall traffic to content on mobile sites is opposite to that of desktop websites on weekends. For example, on desktop article traffic — where we query over 20 billion links per month — we generally see a 34% drop in traffic on Saturdays and Sundays. That makes sense as most of us are away from our computers on the weekends (some of us at least), and as a result, traffic is lower across the board. The opposite is true for mobile traffic. On weekends, mobile traffic actually increases. We see an average page view increase of 12% on Saturdays and Sundays from mobile viewers over their weekday consumption.
This brings up a host of interesting points, but one clearly stands out: any company engaged in traffic acquisition can help offset weekend traffic dips by focusing on its mobile business. Readers shift their content consumption from their desks to their phones on the weekends, so why not follow them?
Overall, these data points are as fun as they are interesting to watch and analyze, but with them comes a caveat that we are in the infant days of this market as our sample set used for this post was relatively small. But one trend that does not come with a caveat is the growing number of page views on mobile sites. In terms of inventory growth, this is where publishers are seeing their audiences migrate. As we continue to serve readers great recommendations, no matter the platform, you can count on Outbrain to keep reporting the interesting trends in mobile content consumption as they unfold.
Join us in NYC tomorrow, September 21st, for a breakfast session at the Digiday Mobile conference as we discuss the challenges and successes that top publishers face with their mobile strategy.
John LoGioco is Senior Vice President, Sales & Business Development at Outbrain. Follow him on Twitter at @johnlogioco.