Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

7 February 2019

Google, Facebook own 9 of top 10 apps – time for a break up?

A reader got in touch this week suggesting Faultline Online Reporter cover Brexit in our characteristically provocative style, and just in case others in our audience have the same yearning, we are taking the opportunity to say we plan to avoid the topic until any implications of the UK political saga become relevant for our industry; implications which are currently few and far between. What we can do, however, is dive into a UK Digital Market Overview for Q4 2018 which arrived in our inbox this week – made much more interesting by the fact it was published by an American technology company.

US audience measurement specialist Comscore, in partnership with measurement standards body UKOM, has outlined a number of UK market trends using its MMX Multi-Platform product, breaking down the top 20 properties by unique viewers. The headline-grabbing finding is that Google’s various sites reach 97% of the UK online population, with more than 47.5 million unique visitors in the quarter, 45.6 million of which access YouTube regularly.

One standout statistic is that YouTube alone reaches more than all Facebook properties combined in the UK market – accounting for its main social media and messaging platforms (41.8 million), Instagram (25.8 million) and WhatsApp (23.8 million). Considering the widespread calls to break up the Facebook monopoly, is Google getting off lightly here? While the impetus has certainly been on Facebook, the search monolith has too been the topic of break up chat, with Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry urging the federal government in September to submit the Silicon Valley giants to the same treatment inflicted upon Standard Oil in 1911.

The separation chronicles are sure to exacerbate this year, but in the meantime, more mind boggling is the report’s section on time spent accessing entertainment and social media. Google sites clocked up a total of 60.4 million minutes (equivalent to almost 42,000 days), almost double Facebook in second place with 38 million minutes, and dwarfing Netflix’s 6.5 million minutes (ranking 6th).

Interestingly, Spotify didn’t make the top 20 properties by unique visitors, but did claim the bronze medal for time spent, clocking up15.6 million minutes – meaning some serious usage time by a relatively small user base when compared with Google and Facebook. To us, this translates into an inherently more valuable user base.

As for mobile devices, Comscore and UKOM found that 40 million UK adults accessed mobile content in December 2018, via browsers and apps, and the overwhelming power of the duopoly really hits home with results showing that 9 of the top 10 apps are owned by Google or Facebook. The anomaly is Snapchat, which recorded 22.7 million unique visitors on mobile devices, ranking 6th. Netflix didn’t make the top 10 on mobile overall but ranked third for share of tablet viewing out of the top 10 services at 17%, behind BBC sites at 32% and Google sites at 21%.

This is all well and good identifying what we already knew, that mobile devices are the preferred viewing method and that just two companies dominate the mobile ecosystem, but are there any trends in changes concerning these properties?

Identified in the report are major swings for Spotify and Amazon, growing minutes spent on their properties by 35% and 32% respectively from September 2018 to December 2018, while Google and Facebook properties each saw only 4% rises in minutes. Down the other end, it was bad news for eBay with time spent down 6%, while Verizon’s Oath properties slipped 3% in terms of minutes, not nearly as bad as you would expect from a business recently incurring a $4.6 billion goodwill impairment. Surprisingly, time spent on BBC sites declined by 7%, perhaps as a direct result of the 17% increase in Netflix viewing time over the period.

In terms of unique visitors, the change over such a short period was not significant for the top 10 properties across all device types, with Google and Facebook both flat, while Sky properties saw the largest increase at 4%, followed by Amazon at 3%. There were small unique visitor declines of 1% for both BBC and Microsoft sites.

It was a different story for mobile apps, however, with Spotify again a high performer, boosting unique visitors by 20% over the 3-month period, second only to BBC Weather at 22%. How typically British that a weather app see the largest audience gain, heading from the end of summer into winter. The surprise victims were Instagram and Twitter, seeing 4% and 5% audience declines respectively in the quarter, while Facebook took a unique visitor hit of 2%, contrary to its last set of results which saw global users spike again. YouTube climbed 2%, WhatsApp was up 8%, and Amazon Mobile (the e-commerce app) lifted its audience 11%.