Mobile Web Stats Disapointing

The Mobile Data Association has announced the latest quarterly stats¬†for mobile web usage. And, to be honest, they’re really disappointing.

Why? Well, they’re meaningless.

The main issue is that (like many such stats) they make no distinction between downloads and browsing, which is a big difference in user behaviour.

Secondly, the headline of 40.7 million users in the quarter might be true, but it overstates usage considerably. What it actually means is that 13 million people used the mobile web in July, 13.7 million August and 14 million¬†in September. In other words, it’s almost certainly the same people using it each month, albeit with healthy month on month growth.

The MDA is an organisation consisting of industry players to promote the cause of mobile data usage, especially among users. This is a laudable aim and one which we should encourage. But this aim isn’t best served by guarding the real stats, when clearly their members have access to everything the rest of us need to know.

As an example, we’re currently poised on the cusp of a massive explosion of brands building mobile websites (or at least adapting content for mobile). If I’m a marketing director of a big brand right now, I’d want to know if it’s worth¬†the investment and resources¬†and some of the questions I need answers for are:

* What percentage of the mobile owning population browse the web with their phones (as opposed to downloading – a very different experience and mindset)?

* What percentage use on-portal v off-portal?

* How big is on-portal and off-portal? Which is growing? How quickly?

* What are the top 10/50/100 mobile websites by traffic? The MDA does list the “Top 10” here, but it’s clearly anecdotal and random and if you know anything about it, just about as misleading a Top 10 as it can be.

* What kind of sites are most popular?

* Demographic breakdown of users

That’s probably the minimum I’d expect my advisors to be able to tell me and even then I’d probably have a lot more questions.

The MDA in theory has answers to all these questions, or more accurately, its members do. So why the reluctance to provide those who need it a proper business case for signing up to the mobile web? After all, the more sites, the more promotion, the more consumers surfing, the more money the MDA membership makes.

I suspect the answer is that although full of the best intentions, like many trade bodies, they’re frustrated by lack of resources and the politics of the membership. Bear in mind that if they want to provide answers to all these questions, all the operators have to agree to provide all the data and then actually provide it. Herding cats would be easy in comparison.

It’s a great shame though that the membership can’t get its act together and provide a consistent voice and the¬†information people need to make decisions that will end up directly benefiting….the membership. I mean supposing you went to buy a car and the salesperson refused to tell you miles per gallon or what colour it came in, for confidential reasons?

Don’t get me wrong, the MDA has done some great work over the years – promoting sms, for example. What I’d like is more support for the work they’re trying to do and let them get on with doing the job.

 

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