Behind the Numbers: Mobile Content Consumption in the U.S.

|Alex Bennett

To investigate consumption patterns on various platforms (i.e., desktop, mobile, tablet) and devices (e.g., iPhone) across the U.S., we extracted data on all paid recommendations that were served to readers in the U.S. between mid January and mid April 2013. We then analyzed consumption (impression volume) by platform, by device and by state. Taking a look at the U.S. as a whole, the majority of mobile content is consumed on the iPhone (55%), followed by the Android (43%), then the Windows Phone (1%), and, lastly, the Blackberry (.5%). Of all the U.S. states, Connecticut and Arizona show the heaviest usage of iPhones for content consumption, relative to other mobile devices. In Connecticut and Arizona, iPhones account for 70% and 66% of total mobile consumption, respectively. As you might have guessed, these two states also have the smallest shares of Android consumption (28% and 33% respectively). There are only 5 states where iPhone content consumption is surpassed by Android content consumption: Iowa, Kansas, Michigan Washington and Wisconsin. Of these, Iowa and Washington have the most Android consumption (58% and 56% respectively) and the least iPhone consumption (41% and 39% respectively). Blackberry consumption is highest in West Virginia (1.5%) and lowest in Oregon and Minnesota (.3% each). Consumption on Windows phones is highest in Washington (4%) and lowest in Iowa (.6%).

Now that we’ve delved into the devices used for mobile content consumption across the U.S., let’s take a step back and look at the breakdown of content consumption between platforms (desktop vs. mobile vs. tablet) across the country. Device and location based content is just one way Outbrain can help you boost engagement.

Our data shows that 82% of all content consumed in the U.S. during the 3 month period was consumed on desktop computers, 10% on mobile devices and 8% on tablets. The chart below shows the 9 states where the breakdown of content consumption between platforms differs the most from the breakdown for the U.S. as a whole.

  Compared to the U.S. population as a whole, inhabitants of Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming and Vermont consume much less content on mobile devices (half as much as the U.S. population, as a percentage of total consumption) and more on desktop computers. Floridians and Texans consume a greater percentage of content on mobile and tablet devices and a smaller percentage of content on desktop computers, relative to the total U.S. population. Of all the U.S. states, D.C. has the smallest percentage of content consumed on tablets and the highest percentage of content consumed on mobile devices (closely followed by Texas). South Carolina has the heaviest usage of tablets, relative to other platforms, in the U.S. (closely followed by Florida). There is certainly a great deal of variance in mobile consumption between U.S. states, with the states on the heavier end of the spectrum having more than double the proportion of content consumed on mobile than the lighter end. What factors might be contributing to these differences?

First, we considered commute time as a driver of mobile consumption habits. The logic behind this is quite simple: the more time people spend commuting to work, the more time is spent with platform options limited to mobile devices. It turned out that our hunch was correct! As you can see in the graph below, there is a strong positive correlation between commute time and mobile consumption.

  Next, we wanted to see how the number of businesses located in a given state impacts mobile consumption habits.  Our inkling was that greater concentrations of businesses would be accompanied by larger volumes of mobile consumption relative to other platforms. Again, the data aligned well with our expectations:

  These are just two out of a plethora of potential factors that drive platform-specific consumption patterns across the U.S.; but we think it’s important to make strides (big or small) toward identifying such underlying factors. With the amount of data that accumulates on Outbrain’s network each second, we are in an excellent position to quantify which platforms and devices are used to consume content and how these habits vary both across the U.S. and the world. While the numbers alone can be highly valuable and informative, we continue to strive to understand the story behind the numbers. By understanding how content consumption habits are formed, content marketers could end up learning a whole lot more about their audience.


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Alex Bennett

Alex Bennett

Alex is a Business Intelligence Analyst at Outbrain, where she is responsible for extracting and delivering data-driven insights to content... Read more

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