Don Marti

Thu 22 Jan 2015 07:12:23 AM PST

mobile ad revenue fail

Arel Lidow has a look at Mary Meeker's Internet Trends report and writes, Each year, the gap between dollars spent on mobile advertising versus time spent on mobile devices increases: in 2011, the implied gap was about $14 billion; in 2013, it was about $28 billion. So why is the gap in mobile ad spend so damn large? And when will those billions of dollars come flooding in?

I plotted the same data, and and put the numbers for print, web, and mobile, across several years, on the same graph.

Clearly, Lidow is right. Mobile is remarkably disappointing, compared to web. But what is going on with print?

Even as the fraction of user time spent on print falls, it's worth more to advertisers than mobile is.

This isn't much of a surprise, if you look at advertising history. More targetable ad media such as junk fax and email spam tend to fall in value, while non-targetable ad media tend to hold or gain value. (Seems paradoxical until you look at the economics behind it.)

But here's Lidow's recommendation: If you could wave a magic wand and provide a perfect attribution system with widespread usage by marketers and agencies, the mobile ad landscape would change quickly, and ad spend would increase.

So wait a minute. Take the a low-value ad medium and make it more valuable by doing more of what makes it less valuable? Wouldn't you want to figure out how to go the other way?

I don't get it. More and more I'm starting to think that this whole surveillance marketing trend is more about selling Marketing to the rest of the company than about selling stuff to customers.