Episode 17: Why is growth in time spent with digital media slowing? with eMarketer

Nicole Perrin, Senior Analyst at eMarketer, gets a lot of “peak X” questions. We spoke with Nicole about data illustrating peaks and plateaus in the amount time people are projected to spend with digital media in a day (while multitasking).

“We’re expecting that time with digital is going to grow about 4% this year, and then about 3% next year, and then about 2% in 2020,” Nicole said.

Nicole Perrin quote eMarkter

There’s still growth in digital media consumption, but the rate of growth is declining. What does peak digital consumption look like in terms of our attention for different mediums? How would a plateau in time spent impact content creators? What happens as we approach peak app usage?

Sachin and Andrew discuss how smartphones factor into growth in digital media consumption and the different modes we’re in when using devices. Plus, they go +1 / -1 on apps versus the mobile web.

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Show notes:


Megan: According to data from eMarketer, growth in digital media consumption is declining. So, if your brain is like mine, you have to take a second to think about what that means. It means that there’s still growth in time spent with digital media, but it’s just happening at a slower rate. So, since we’re still spending more time with digital media in 2018, my question for both of you is: what do you think is driving that growth? Sachin, what do you think it is?

Sachin: I got to think it’s just easier access to things through mobile, so people are using their mobile devices more and more. I would say that digital media is also encompassing of things like watching YouTube and watching things as they come through streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. That stuff has got to go up, so I would say that that’s a contributing factor as well.

I think it’s also interesting—I saw a recent study, I think by eMarketer. I see that desktop is going down, but it’s like plateauing, so it’s reached its next level, but it’s not going down anymore, so that’s an interesting counterpoint to what I thought would eventually evaporate maybe two ago. I thought desktop would just be gone.

Megan: Andrew, do you agree?

Andrew: I’ll take a little bit of a darker tack on this, which is that I think that the growth that’s remaining is pure phone addiction, so just more people getting more addicted to their phones and, thus, opening it up for more and more sessions. And that’s why the growth rate is declining because, ultimately, that addiction has its limits and there might even be countervailing responsible use movement, which we’ve seen even with the recent Android and iOS releases of digital well-being tools, so I think that’s where we are with smartphones anyway.

Sachin: It also just has to be the fact that there’s only 24 hours in a day, right?

Andrew: Right.

Sachin: Minus sleep, so that’s more like 16 hours in a day, and then you got to take care of the other bare necessities, so I think there is going to be a max time that you can spend, unless, I don’t know, some physicist has figured out another dimension to watch YouTube videos on.

Andrew: Do humans dream of electric content, I wonder?

Megan: (02:19) This week on Black Mirror…. All right, so these are all good points. We’re going to get into them. Thankfully, we’ll have eMarketer’s dataset to back us up. So we’re still spending time with digital media, but, like you guys said, there are only so many hours in a day, even if you’re multitasking, which is important in the study. So, as we approach a plateau in time spent with digital media, what are the implications for publishers?

Welcome to The Center of Attention, the podcast exploring how digital behavior relates to the attention economy at large. I’m Megan Radogna, the show’s producer, and I’m here with Parse.ly’s co-founders and the show’s co-hosts, Sachin Kamdar and Andrew Montalenti. Hey, Sachin.

Sachin: Hey, Megan.

Megan: Hi, Andrew. How are you?

Andrew: Hey, Megan. How’s it going?

Megan: Pretty good! So, all of these questions that we have, I talked to Nicole Perrin about. She is a senior analyst at eMarketer, and we got into how these different digital mediums are competing for our attention. We talked about what exactly slowing growth means, how attitudes toward devices are changing, and the answer to my original question, which is that smartphones are the reason why there is still growth.

Does that come as a surprise to either of you? It seems like you hit it on the nose.

Sachin: (03:40) I don’t think that’s a surprise to me. Like I said, I think there’s a lot of factors to the smartphone growth. I have a little bit of a disagreement with Andrew where I think it’s not just purely the fact that people are addicted to smartphones, because we’ve had them now for, I don’t know, a decade. I think it’s other things that are making maybe the phone a better place to do things. So, the fact that we have high speed broadband means that videos are available through streaming services, the fact that screens are getting super high quality, the fact that you can start to do things like augmented reality and, in some cases, virtual reality through your phones.

These are all ways that the phone has extended the use case of how we can spend time on it. I don’t think it’s purely just like a device that you’re addicted to, though these might be things that you become addicted to as they start to get released and as newer things come up.

Andrew: (04:43) Yeah, and I think, in old media landscape, people used to refer to phones as the second screen next to television, I guess. And what’s weird now is that the phones themselves are second screens onto themselves and even like tablets and things, so people—

Sachin: What do you mean by that?

Andrew: People can background-watch a Netflix video in the corner of an iPad while they read content on their browser, so they’re second screening.

Sachin: Yeah. I guess, I remember Twitter describing themselves like that as like the second person in the conversation when you were watching a show, like a popular show or a sporting event.

Andrew: Yeah. They were adding the discussion layer to the live event. Yeah, so I feel like there’s a lot of things where maybe if there is growth, it’s going to be almost like a strange counting error or something. It’s like, hey, maybe there isn’t growth, but, now, people listen to podcast while they read Internet content or they watch streaming services on the side while they’re also skimming a news article on their phone or something, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, I don’t think, if there’s too much of that, but I guess it’s probably going to happen over time.

Sachin: (06:05) I think though mobile content and mobile traffic and mobile attention is obviously a growing source of where people are deciding to spend their time. If you’re looking at the Parse.ly data, it’s not all equal in the same way that we see people using Facebook and Google to find different types of information. That’s actually the same thing when it comes to devices, too, and so what we’ve found looking at our data is that, and this is not surprising, things that are more work-oriented, things that are more centered around learning, things that are professional development-oriented tend to have higher sources of traffic on desktop than they do on mobile.

The other interesting thing is that this changes by time of day, too. So, when people are at the office, they’re not using their mobile phones as much. When they’re at home and when they’re not at work on the weekends, that’s when mobile usage jumps. When you take a very, very broad look, yes, mobile is growing, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for other form factors, other devices to actually capture the attention, depending on what people are concentrating, what they’re doing, where they are.

Andrew: (07:18) Sachin, do you ever find yourself sitting at your desktop or computer and then pulling out your smartphone and reading an article on there instead even though you’re sitting right in front of your browser on your desktop?

Sachin: No, I don’t think I do. Is that something that you do?

Andrew: Yeah. I was thinking about it the other day because I caught myself doing it the other day. It was like a—

Sachin: Walk me through that. Did you get somebody sending you something or you literally just pull out your phone to read The New York Times?

Andrew: (07:45) No. I mean, I didn’t just like out of nowhere pull up my phone and read The New York Times or something like that. But I was working on something on my desktop computer. I had lots of tabs open and I could have just as easily opened up a tab somewhere, but I took a break from my desktop and pulled out my phone and then, before I knew it, I found myself sitting in my desk, staring at my phone for a minute or two, reading something.

I was wondering—the reason I brought it up is because I’m thinking about to what degree right now people are modal in the way they use these devices, right? We know from the research we’ve done that people have more of a laid back attitude toward tablet computers. They use them more on weekends and they read more long form content. Obviously, they’re fitting mobile phones in on the go during commutes in the cities and things like that and desktop, obviously, at work, but I’m trying to think to what degree can devices be combined? Is there some experience that could be running on your mobile phone that augments what you’re doing on your desktop? Is there a way you could use the tablet with the desktop together? That’s what I’m wondering about.

Sachin: Yeah. I mean, I’m sure there a lot people that do use these things in different modal ways. I think a natural one is, if you’re in media, you probably use your phone for Twitter, right? It tends to be a natural way to …

Andrew: That’s true, yep.

Sachin: …stream through stuff and—

Andrew: Also, Twitter’s mobile app is better than its desktop app for the most part.

Sachin: (09:20) There you go. There you go, and maybe they don’t use a desktop for that, but I think that’s what the future companies in this space are really trying to get towards: a completely new way to interact with content and experiences through augmented reality. So, you have companies like Microsoft with their HoloLens. You have Magic Leap that I guess had an underwhelming launch of their latest product, but I think that is the holy grail where you’re in a work environment, but everything can be more or less manipulated in that virtual space that’s surrounding your work environment that allows you to have a hundred screens at once, which sounds like my own personal nightmare, but that’s what I think the world is going towards.

Megan: (10:06) All right, so we’ve brought up apps, we’ve brought up the future, we brought up mobile Web, and the modal switches that we got through in our day, and that’s all something that I talked about with with Nicole who, like I said, is a senior analyst at eMarketer. So I think this is a great time to turn to our conversation and see what Nicole has to say.

Nicole: (10:29) A lot of times, when people hear something like declining growth, they just hear the decline and they think something is getting smaller, but that’s not what it means. It just means that growth is slowing down, so something that was growing really quickly a few years ago is still growing, just not as fast. And the big reason for that, with almost everything that we cover, as well as with what we’re talking about right now, which is time spent with digital media, is because once something gets big, it’s harder to grow at the same rate.

If you’re spending 10 minutes a day with digital this year and next year you spend 20, that’s 100% growth, which is really, really fast, but, say, you add 10 minutes again the following year, that’s only 50% growth. That’s how percentages work, so growth tends to slow over time with most things, and that’s what we’re seeing now. It looks like time spent with digital media is starting to plateau.

Megan: (11:21) Let’s talk a little bit about what we’re qualifying as digital media. What are the kinds of categories of digital media that you were looking at in the study?

Nicole: (11:29) Yes, so this includes time spent with mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, and feature phones for those who still have those. It does not include voice time, so I just want to be really clear that our smartphone figures don’t include any time that you actually spend talking on the phone. It’s everything else. In addition to that, it counts desktop and laptop time, whatever you’re doing.

Megan: (11:55) Is there a medium—desktop, mobile—that is slowing at a faster rate, or maybe you can translate it for me?

Nicole: (12:06) Yes. Yes. Absolutely. In fact, time spent with desktop and laptop, PCs is declining a little bit, very little bit, but it is going down, whereas time spent with mobile phones, specifically smartphones, is going up. Tablet time also went down like a minute. I wouldn’t necessarily call that a significant decline, but there’s definitely a shift toward more time spent with mobile phones as opposed to with your desktop or laptop.

Megan: (12:36) That’s the situation now, and with your 10 years of experience at eMarketer, I’m sure you can bring us in a time machine a little bit. How does that compare to 10 years ago, five years ago, maybe even last year?

Nicole: (12:48) Sure. These trends had definitely started by last year. I would say the smartphone revolution has been one of the biggest factors in time spent with digital media over the past several years. For many, many years, desktop and laptop time was increasing, but not by a massive amount, and it was really putting those computers into people’s hands, into people’s pockets in a way where they could use them out and about all day that really juiced the amount of time people were spending with digital media. So, we have some pretty significant bursts of growth around 2011, 2012 when those phones started to be in more and more hands. And, as that penetration also started to plateau, that’s when we started to see digital media time plateau.

Megan: (13:40) Does it have something to do with the accessibility of phones, the experience on phones? What is it that makes smartphones the catalyst of the growth?

Nicole: (13:52) Sure. I think the accessibility is really important. I mentioned the fact that you have it with you all day. All of these little five-minute time-killing smartphone activities that we all do when we’re waiting, that was time that before maybe you were spending with a magazine or a newspaper or maybe you were just spending doing nothing, but you certainly weren’t spending it on your desktop or laptop, so that was a big addition.

Alongside that, I just want to give a little bit of background on part of our methodology for time spent overall. If you’re multitasking, we count that as time spent with each medium. Imagine you’re watching TV and on your smartphone for an hour. We would count that as two hours of total activity, one hour with the TV, one hour with the smartphone. We don’t try to divide it up in any way, so that’s also where we saw a lot of growth coming in, when people started using more and more smartphones, when they started using them as a second or a third screen, so all that time that you spend at home on your couch, watching TV on your phone contributed quite a bit to digital media time.

Megan: (14:53) I’m also guilty of watching, streaming something and then reading all of Ellen DeGeneres’ Instagram. Who needs to do that …

Nicole: (14:53) How many different—

Megan: (15:02) …but I do it.

Nicole: (15:03) Yeah. No, I was at the hotel last night, and I was texting with my husband and I said, “You know, I just put on a movie, but I’m about to start reading a book,” and he’s like, “What’s, what’s wrong with you?” When you’re alone in a hotel, you want that background noise.

Megan: (15:18) Yeah. Right. I know. It’s interesting though, it seems like the ways that we need different pulls on our attention …

Nicole: (15:25) I know.

Megan: (15:25) … definitely have been changing over time.

Nicole: (15:27) Yes. We’ve been talking about plateauing time with digital media. One thing that we don’t estimate in terms of time spent, but I think is interesting to put in the mix here is voice, specifically things like Echo or Google Home or something like that. It’s not a screen. You’re not really spending time with it, but it’s there. It’s always on. It’s always a channel that you could be interacting with. So, I think, thinking about that in terms of do we want to think about that like time spent, how do we even want to think about that, is a whole other question.

Megan: (16:02) Is that something that you’re tackling in other areas at eMarketer?

Nicole: (16:06) If you’re listening to the radio on one of those devices, we would count that in our digital audio figures, but any other kind of activity like just saying, “Alexa, buy me some more toilet paper,” wouldn’t be.

Megan: (16:16) Got it. So, something that I think a lot of our listeners care very deeply about and have for a while is that a situation where we have devices that are at the ready and you’re spending those five minutes of downtime maybe on your device as opposed to reading a newspaper or a magazine or some other content medium. I was curious to know, when we’re on our phones, what exactly are we doing? Are people reading digital versions of that content or are there actions more desperate than that?

Nicole: (16:49) Sure. About 90% of time spent with mobile, again this is non-voice time, is spent with apps as opposed to the mobile Web. Most app time tends to be spent with a handful of favorite apps, and those can vary from person to person, but some of the big ones include the usual suspects like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, lots of Google apps as well. People spend a lot of time looking at their Gmail on their phones.

I don’t think these things are that surprising, but when you want to go beyond that to say, “Well, what are they actually consuming?” it becomes a lot harder to say because what does the average person consume when they’re looking at Facebook for five minutes? It could be posts from friends and family, it could be news content that’s on Facebook, and we’re not really able to look through there and say what they’re doing, so it’s possible that they’re doing all sorts of activities, just depending on their individual interests.

Megan: (17:48) What do you see as the moment where it will plateau? Is that forecasted for the future?

Nicole: (17:54) We’ve been talking about slowing growth and this plateau coming. My colleague, Yory Wurmser, who wrote a report on the mobile portion specifically of this forecast, noted that we’ve really—like so many of us have a sense right now that we’re spending too much time on our phones and we want to pull away. I’m sure a lot of your listeners saw, I think it was last week, this Pew survey came out about how many people had deleted Facebook from their phones. We had an eMarketer podcast on that last week where people were a little skeptical. Were they really doing it or were they just saying it because it’s kind of a cool thing to say right now? One of the things that Yory noted in his report was that, if people really do feel like, “You know, I’m spending way too much time and energy with my phone. This kind of contemporary life is just getting me down,” will they disengaged? Will they start spending a little bit less time with their smartphone?

I feel like I may already be doing that. One of the topics that I cover is customer experience, and as I talked to a lot of people about that for a report that I did this summer, I was talking about personalized messaging and stuff like that, and some people think push notifications to your phone are a really great form of engagement, but I think people get enough push notifications.

Megan: (19:12) Yeah.

Nicole: (19:14) The same thing with smart watches. People aren’t necessarily like looking for a way to be a lot more in touch, so that’s suppressed maybe how fast that market might have taken off. So I think, to some extent, a lot of people are looking to disengage, but that’s a cultural trend that I think has been going on for a couple of years, and that could change, too.

Megan: (19:35) Again, thinking from a publisher perspective, from a media perspective, what is something that those folks need to keep in mind as they continue to create content thinking about the nature of our attention and time spent?

Nicole: (19:49) Sure. One of the topics that I also cover is consumer attitudes toward advertising and user experiences and things like that, and I’m working on that right now. And as a user, I often get very frustrated consuming content, whether it’s on desktop, laptop, or phone, by how interruptive the experience can be with advertising.

I’ve talked to a bunch of my analyst colleagues about this and, it’s funny, almost all of them tell me they don’t really read things on their phone that much, so they can’t really compare to me. I do read a lot of news content on my phone. I’m just a news junkie in general, and it’s funny how much advertising in terms of share of screen there is on the phone, and so much of it is inline videos, so much of it has motion to it. When you’re reading, it can be very interruptive.

For me, keeping a good focus on the user experience when mobile screens are getting bigger, but they’re still pretty small—you can still only fit a couple of paragraphs there on the screen, so being respectful of the user attention when I only have five minutes to look at my phone, so I’d like to read a couple of articles. I’ve also had a few experiences where content sites that I subscribe to don’t necessarily recognize me across devices, so that could be a frustration for people for sure. If you have an app, you’re able to mitigate that by just having the person use the app, but if they’re using the mobile Web or if they’re trying to access your content through Twitter or through Facebook or something and maybe they can’t get in, that can definitely be a frustration.

Megan: (21:23) It sounds like a through line any way you look at it just to be thinking about the user first.

Nicole: (21:29) I would definitely say that’s a good bet. Part of my coverage is ad blocking. eMarketer estimates that around a quarter of Internet users in the US will block ads this year on at least one of their devices. There’s a reason for that.

Megan: (21:45) We touched on this a little bit, thinking about peak time spent reaching a plateau, but there was a phrase in your report, which I read at first on Axios, so we can link to that, that I really liked: “Peak app usage.” I was wondering if you could … What does peak app usage look like? How many apps can we have and when will it stop?

Nicole: (22:07) It’s such a good question, and I have “peak X” questions about so many topics like this, so I mentioned that most people spend a vast majority of their phone time on apps, and most of that on just a handful of apps, but you probably have 30 on your phone that you look at maybe once a month, once every six months, maybe never again, so, yeah, how much of your time are you actually going to distribute across different things I think is a big question.

It’s also a big question for me with subscription, especially video subscription services. Internally, we’ve been talking for a few years now asking, “Well, how many $10 or $15 subscriptions can you have before it adds up to your cable bill, and it doesn’t make sense for you anymore?” We’re wondering that, as more and more content providers are having their own solutions come out, as opposed to just putting everything on Netflix or everything on Amazon Prime or something, how many different services will people actually be willing to subscribe to?

I don’t know that we’ve reached peak that yet, but we’ll have to see, but with app usage, I haven’t seen a difference in a long time in terms of how many different apps or what apps really have the most penetration. It’s been pretty stable for a while.

Megan: (23:24) When I’m on my phone, and I’m sure a lot of people are like this, I don’t think like, oh, now, I’m going to do news, and now I’m going to do entertainment, and now I’m going to watch a show on Netflix. I’m just browsing. I’m curious to know how are people creating content—and even publishers who have apps and subscriptions and are pushing for that reader revenue—competing in people’s wallets with Hulu and Netflix and those other subscription services. Because I feel like it’s a baseline of, while it’s subscriptions, it’s a cost and not so much, here’s my budget for—

Nicole: (24:02) I totally agree with that. No, I totally agree with that. I talked about video, but, mentally, I put my digital newspaper subscriptions in that bucket as well, so I totally understand what you’re saying.

In terms of actually getting the content in front of people on mobile, I’ve talked to some people about interesting things that they’ve done, and sometimes in partnership with wireless providers, about pushing content at times of boredom.

I think one of the things with Facebook, the fact that it’s a feed has benefited it in this mobile situation where we’re talking about taking out your phone because you’re bored. So, the top of the feed is usually always something different, and you can just open it, you don’t really have to think. You just scroll. You see some different stuff. Your light turns. You cross the street and you move on with your life. So I think things that have a feed, things that refresh, things that you can just mindlessly scroll, that’s what people are often looking for in those circumstances.

To the extent that other content providers can give that to them, I think they would welcome that just as much because I think it’s one of these situations where, like you said, you’re not really looking for something, you’re just willing to take what someone puts in front of you because you have a couple of minutes.

Megan: (25:16) Right. We’ve talked about five years ago or in the past, previously. We’ve talked about now. Could you give maybe a year from now or a few years from now, what does the project look like from the report for what time spent with digital media will be?

Nicole: (25:31) Yeah, for sure. We’re expecting that time with digital is going to grow about 4% this year, and then about 3% next year, and then about 2% in 2020, so it’s a really good illustration of this slowing rate of growth, but, like I said, it is still getting bigger. Within that social network time, it’s growing about twice that rate, so relatively more digital time will be spent with social networks and, similarly, mobile time is also growing faster than the overall rate of digital, so more digital time will be mobile.

Megan: (26:04) I’m wondering why the metric of time spent, other than the fact that our days are time, and time and attention, but I’m curious what is the weight of that metric versus picking another way to assess the attention economy here?

Nicole: (26:22) Sure. I think, in terms of attention, there’s a natural fit with time, but I think it’s also something that helps us compare across different media because how else could you compare, say, digital consumption with magazine consumption? Would you compare websites visited versus pages of the magazine that you flipped through?

I think, in terms of equalizing a metric that makes sense across as many media, time spent makes a lot of sense and, with digital in particular, it can make a lot of sense just because of how people are getting exposed to ads. When you’re talking about being on a platform for a certain amount of time, how much time of your day are you spending there? How much opportunity does that give advertisers to reach you there?

Megan: (27:09) With all of this in mind, and we’ve talked about how you’re a news junkie and a little bit about how you use your phone (and I’m sure pretty much all of our listeners are going to identify with news and being a news junkie), but I’m curious, if someone took your phone away for a day, what do you think you’d pay attention to?

Nicole: (27:26) The first thing I would do is thank them, as long as I wasn’t going to miss an important work email or something. Yeah, I’m one of these people who would like to be a little bit less tethered to that, but I would … I mean, there’s things in the real world that I’m already paying attention to that I might pay a little bit more attention to, like my husband and my dogs, which would maybe be nice. But as far as media, I would absolutely be reading physical print newspapers and magazines. I would absolutely be reading more books, my time spent with books, which … I mean, we don’t estimate that because it’s not an ad supported medium, but my personal time spent with books has taken a nosedive over the past few years, not necessarily related to smartphone, but just in terms of my lifestyle, but I would hope to pay a lot more attention to that.

I would probably not pay more attention to TV because I am weird in that I watch a good amount of TV. I do second screen at the same time, so maybe I’d actually watch less TV because I wouldn’t be distracted by my phone. Maybe I would take some of that TV time and also devote it to reading.

Megan: (28:35) Yeah, something where your focus is …

Nicole: (28:37) Exactly. Yeah, that’s totally a big thing for me is I like being absorbed in something, and I feel like part of why I second screen so much is because a lot of TV content isn’t necessarily as absorbing as a book would be or as a magazine article would be.

Megan: (28:53) Yeah, I can’t do two things when I’m reading.

Nicole: (28:55) No.

Megan: (28:56) I had a podcast on last night and I started to read my book, and I was like, “Hold on. What am I doing?”

Nicole: (29:02) I’m still holding out hope that one day I’ll be able to read and knit at the same time.

Megan: (29:06) Oh, cool.

Nicole: (29:07) But, yeah. I don’t know.

Megan: (29:10) I think I read something recently, perhaps in Wired, that said that Facebook was exploring some kinds of time spent controls, something that you’re able to see in the app how much time you’re spending, and I think there are other apps out there that do track your time. What’s your opinion on those kinds of measures? Do you think they’re useful? Do you think they should be elective? Do you think you might respond to that and be like, “Oh, wow, I’ve spent X number of minutes with this platform. Maybe I’ll try something else?”

Nicole: (29:43) Yeah, that’s such a good question. In general, I’m a little bit skeptical of the extent to which people actually change their lifestyle based on finding more data about themselves, so I’m thinking here of wearing a Fitbit. How much does it really necessarily change someone’s lifestyle to get all of this data about how many steps they’re taking or how active they are or something like that? Sure, I know it’s definitely helped a lot of people get to the 10,000 steps a day and stuff, but in terms of drastic changes, I don’t know, so I’m not sure how much people would change if they were informed, but I could be totally wrong about that.

If the app told you, “Hey, you’re spending two hours a day with Facebook,” maybe someone would be like, “Whoa, I don’t want to be doing that.” Just to be clear, that’s far longer than the average time in a day that someone spent with Facebook. Our estimate is 26 minutes per adult this year per day, so that’s interesting. For me, one thing that works really well is just putting my phone down in a different room in my apartment and forget about it. If it’s not physically on me, I think about it a lot less. If it’s physically on me, I am so prone to just whipping it out, looking at it for no reason, so I think that for people who do want to take a little bit of a break, there are some pretty basic things that you can probably do to help yourself with that.

Megan: (31:06) That peak app usage stuck with me, the 90% stat that I read, that 90% of your time in apps is with your top five or just a handful of the apps you use the most, very interesting. So I’m curious, could you guess what would you say maybe your top app is? What are your five?

Nicole: (31:27) Oh, man.

Megan: (31:28) This is like that Chris Rock movie.

Nicole: (31:29) Hopefully this isn’t embarrassing. So, for sure, Twitter would be one of my top five. Inbox, because I don’t use the normal Gmail app—I’ve been using Inbox for a long time—would probably be in my top five as well. I feel like I use a lot of mobile Web, but Safari wouldn’t really count. I don’t know if iMessage would count because that would be way up there, too. Yeah, I don’t know. I feel like do I spend all my phone time with Twitter? Possibly. Let’s see what’s on my home screen so I can actually tell you. Instagram is on there. Strava is on there. I am a runner, so I do use that. Overcast, my podcast app, so I absolutely use that a lot. The Wall Street Journal, Amazon—yeah, I definitely use a bunch of these, Chase for banking. I’ve got a game on here. That’s pretty much my top several.

Megan: (32:34) All right. Great. I just want to say thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming and talking on the show.

Nicole: (32:39) Thanks for having me.

Megan: (32:40) Of course.

Andrew: (32:49) All right, Sachin, it’s time for us to get into the plus ones and minus ones for today.

Sachin: (32:54) Let’s go.

Andrew: (32:57) Regarding mobile Web versus native apps, first one is, plus one or minus one, adding a website to your home screen instead of adding the app to your home screen. Do you ever do that?

Sachin: (33:09) You mean, if they have both, which one would I pick?

Andrew: (33:11) No. It would be like if you go to a publisher site and they just say, “Hey, do you want to add this website to your home screen?” would you ever say yes to that to just have a shortcut to open up the website?

Sachin: (33:24) Yeah, I do.

Andrew: (33:24) You do that? Okay. I’m minus one on that. I almost never do that. I always either opt for the mobile app or use the Chrome or whatever mobile browser directly.

How about plus one or minus one just generally on, would you prefer to install lots of mobile apps for lots of different services? Or, I guess, are you plus one on lots of native apps or are you minus one on that and you want to have just a few apps and then use your browser for everything else?

Sachin: (33:55) This gets into a selfish versus societal plus one minus one for me. So, selfishly, I would prefer to have the apps because they tend to load faster. They tend to get right to the stuff that I want, so I’d prefer to have the native app, but I think it’s important that the Web continues to exist in that it becomes an ungated way that people access information. My worry is that if everything goes the way of apps, then things are going to be closed, and the ability to get open Web access is not going to be as strong of a force as it is today, so I think Web apps are important for the future of the Internet.

Andrew: (34:36) Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I’m a plus one on the idea of native apps when they’re really enhancing the experience, but if there’s two equivalent experiences that are Web and native, I definitely would rather just use my browser. I’m actually curious, do you think that your most popular app on your phone is your browser, or do you think it’s something else?

Sachin: (35:00) No, it’s email, so it’s … Yeah, it’s definitely email. It’s number one.

Andrew: (35:05) That’s a total CEO answer right there.

Sachin: (35:08) That’s true. What’s your number one? Do you think it’s the browser?

Andrew: (35:11) I’m pretty sure it’s the browser. I was actually just trying to check my activity tracking app to see if I could get the real thing.

Sachin: (35:16) I’m doing the same thing right now.

Andrew: (35:17) Yeah.

Sachin: (35:17) Let’s see how accurate we are.

Andrew: (35:21) Yeah, basically, my top app right now is Chrome and then Gmail after that, but, it’s like by a factor of two, Chrome is higher.

Sachin: (35:30) My top is other, but I don’t know what other is. Oh, the other is Inbox, so, yeah, it’s email.

Megan: (35:39) All right, and we’ll leave it there for this episode. Everyone who tuned in, thank you for listening and, of course, our thanks to Nicole Perrin for joining us as a guest and for bringing this dataset to our attention.

You can subscribe to The Center of Attention on all the apps: iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or SoundCloud. You can follow the show on Twitter. We’re @attnpod, and you can follow Andrew, @amontalenti, and Sachin, @SachinKamdar. Thanks again for listening and, remember, this was an episode of Black Mirror. Until next time.