Consumers Eye Mobile Web

NEW YORK The mobile Internet still has a long way to go before it becomes a mainstream media habit or viable advertising medium, but signs point to heightened consumer interest that should result in more enthusiasm among big brands.

That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by the Online Publisher’s Association using TNS Sixth Dimension Interactive Panels.

Seventy-one percent of the 1,000-plus U.S. mobile users interviewed said they have Web access on their phones, and more than 40 percent said they have used mobile Web services.

Those numbers don’t necessarily jibe with other third-party mobile research reports, which have found that roughly 10 percent of mobile users regularly access the wireless Internet—part of the reason that mobile still trails other emerging media when it comes to ad spending. Regardless, among the OPA survey’s respondents, roughly 58 percent said they are less than satisfied with surfing the Web on their phones, citing slow technology and hard-to-navigate mobile sites.

That dissatisfaction would indicate the medium needs rapid improvement to pull in more users. However, 25 percent of respondents said they intend to spend more time accessing the Web this year.

Part of the motivation behind conducting the study was “to uncover what it is we do to ensure that consumers are more satisfied,” said Pam Horan, OPA president. “The biggest issue is technology. We found that just 43 percent of mobile users were satisfied, and that’s not the number we are reaching for. There is a huge opportunity.”

Horan also pointed out that while Europeans generally index higher than Americans when it comes to surfing the Web using phones, U.S. users index higher for specific content categories and also demonstrate a greater propensity to personalize content. Those factors speak to the long-term potential of content and advertising, Horan said. “We’ve obviously got a huge ways to go, but overall things are promising,” she said. “People are accessing mobile content and they are willing to establish a relationship with [media properties].”

It’s unclear just how open users are to mobile advertising. While 18 percent of respondents said they are willing to receive advertising in exchange for free content, users also showed a willingness to pay for specific content, such as technology news. Said Horan: “There is an ad platform that works here, and there is an opportunity for paid models.”