Yahoo woos mobile developers with help on ads, reporting, more

Yahoo is gearing mobile developers to wrestle user mind share away from traditional media outlets.

Yahoo pitched mobile developers on new tools at a New York conference on Wednesday, aiming to inspire them to go out and build disruptive apps.

"There hasn't been a single industry that hasn't been disrupted by mobile applications, starting with music, gaming, travel, retail, and now media," said Simon Khalaf, Yahoo senior vice president of publishing products, at the company's second event this year for mobile app developers.

Among the new tools in the Yahoo Mobile Developer Suite is one that links apps to the Yahoo-owned Tumblr blogging platform. A third-party content-creation app can include the option to post a user's work on a Tumblr account.

One company looking forward to using this new feature is PicsArt, which offers a mobile app for editing photos. With this new functionality, users can now copy the work they create in PicsArt into their Tumblr feeds, said Wilson Kriegel, the company's chief business development officer.

The Tumblr tool also collects metrics on how often a Tumblr entry has been reblogged, clicked upon, or liked, thanks to the software Yahoo acquired when it purchased Flurry Analytics last year.

Yahoo has also provided some help with embedding advertisements in mobile apps. The tool can be used to insert video ads into an app, and provide metrics on which ads have the best response rate.

Khalaf shared some statistics the company has been aggregating from its customers' use of the Flurry analysis software.

Flurry now tracks the usage habits of 720,000 apps across two billion mobile devices, capturing billions of user sessions each month, he said.

Among the findings: Americans now spend about 3 hours and 40 minutes per day on their phones, which is about 35 percent more time than they did a year ago in the same time period. This is time that used to be devoted, at least in part, to watching television, Khalaf argued.

"You folks are taking over the media industry," Khalaf told the audience of developers.

Another interesting finding from Flurry: People appear to be spending less time browsing the Web on their mobile phones, and focusing more on using apps.

Based on metrics gathered in the second quarter of 2015, mobile users are spending about 90 percent of their mobile device time on apps, and only 10 percent of their time using a browser.

Mobile users also appear to be spending less time playing games on their apps. Gaming occupies just 14 percent of all user time on mobile apps. In 2015, users spent 43 minutes playing games, down from 52 minutes in 2014.

Instead, people are spending more time on social, messaging, and entertainment apps, which now account for 51 percent of all usage, Khalaf said.

This year will be the first when in-app sales exceed mobile app advertising, pointing to a growing revenue stream for developers, Yahoo has projected. Last year, $21 billion was spent on in-app purchases of content, and $23 billion on ads; in 2015, $33 billion will be spent within or on apps, and $31 billion will be spent on mobile ads, the company estimated.

"The mobile app consumer has been trained to pay for content. It's not like the Internet. That is phenomenal news," Khalaf said.

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Joab Jackson

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