In a way, the story is as simple as two fractions.
- U.S. consumers are spending one-fourth of their media time on mobile devices.
- Advertisers are only spending one-eighth of their dollars on mobile.
That gap between mobile attention and mobile advertising is worth more than $20 billion a year, and it’s closing fast. Mobile is eating media, and Facebook—which controls 20 percent of the mobile ad market and is growing three times faster than the leader Google—is poised to eat mobile.
This is the short version. But to appreciate the speed with which the Facebook Future is here, just go back a few years.
In June 2010, the superstar Internet analyst Mary Meeker delivered a slideshow presentation on the state of the Internet, the 10th version of a precis she’d prepared annually since 2001. Among her many observations, two have turned out to be particularly prescient.
First, she named 2012 as a coming inflection point, when smartphone sales would overtake those of personal computers. After the moment, mobile would become the future for both audiences and advertisers. Second, she pointed to a relatively young upstart that could challenge several tech incumbents, such as Google and Microsoft. Facebook, a private company that was already the world's largest social network "in English-speaking countries," had at the time amassed an impressive 500 million annual visitors. However, the social network hadn't quite learned how to effectively monetize these people, or their zillions of "likes." Meeker saw advertising potential that might rival television. With more than 4 million “likes” each for brands such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Oreos, this was the audience equivalent of TV shows like Scrubs or Parks and Recreation.