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Search doesn't play a large role in mobile -- yet: Crisp CEO

Data from the inaugural edition of the Crisp Wireless Index shows that there was a 24 percent increase in traffic across mobile Web sites in the Crisp Wireless Mobile Publisher Network.

While a narrow majority of the traffic is still driven from wireless carrier decks, off-deck traffic is increasing, per the quarterly index that launches today. A surprising finding in the first quarter index is that only 7.51 percent of traffic to the publisher sites in Crisp's network is driven by search engines.

"Search does not play a large role in mobile yet, and it is not increasing much at all," said Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp, New York.

What little traffic Crisp client sites get from search is sent by -- no surprises -- Google. The Mountain View, CA-based company accounts for 6.4 percent of the total traffic to the Crisp publisher sites, or an 85.2 percent share of the search engine traffic.

Yahoo was No. 2 after Google, accounting for 0.43 percent of the total traffic to Crisp publisher sites, or a 5.78 percent share of the search engine traffic.

MSN/Windows, AOL and others accounted for the remaining 1 percent of search referrals to the Crisp publisher sites, or little under 15 percent of the search engine traffic.

Local is search beneficiary
Traffic referred by search trends higher within local properties such as local newspapers and local television.

In fact, local newspapers garnered a 27.36 percent of traffic from search, along with 1.78 average visits per unique visitor and 2.94 average page views per visit.

Local news TV was next, accounting for an 11.75 percent share of traffic from search, along with 1.98 average visits per unique visitor and 2.15 average page views per visit.

Categories such as men/sports, autos, online services, business, national news, magazines, TV and entertainment, women' lifestyle and youth, in that order, accounted for the rest of the traffic from searches.

The women's lifestyle category had the most number of average visits per unique visitor -- 3.55 -- but only 3.42 average page views per visit.

The auto category had the highest average page views per visit at 7.94, but recorded only 1.36 average visits per unique visitor.

Barack Obama was the No. 1 search term in the top 20 mobile Internet search terms used to find content on sites within the Crisp index for the first quarter.

Movies/movie times was next, followed by weather, Heath Ledger, News, Britney Spears, Horoscopes, Sex, Porno, American Idol, iPhone, Brad Renfro, Lil Wayne, Hillary Clinton, Clothing, Nasdaq, Cloverfield, NFL Playoffs, Spitzer and Apple.

The Crisp index found that for sites that have an on-deck presence on all three major carriers -- AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel -- carrier decks are driving 53.4 percent of overall traffic.

Carriers do heavy lifting
Of the three, AT&T accounted for 29.07 percent of total on-deck traffic, Verizon 12.41 percent and Sprint Nextel 13.26 percent.

"Carriers remain a hugely important driver of traffic and discovery," Mr. Fridman said.

Crisp manages and supports more than 200 mobile Web sites from 45 major media firms such as Hearst Magazines Digital Media, Time Warner, NBC Sports, Gannett, Bravo Cable Network, Discovery Communications, Hachette Filipacchi, Paramount Pictures, Tribune Interactive and A&E.

Data from these publishers' mobile sites is crunched for the Crisp index.

"We did not look at advertisers in this edition of the index," Mr. Fridman said.

"While not particularly apparent from the index, publishers that treat mobile as a different medium have seen greater traffic and stickiness," he said. "Since mobile search is less effective than online, publishers must look for ways to better promote sites."

A couple of trends from analyzing mobile Web usage trends in the Crisp publisher network also stood out.

"The significant part that a recognizable brand name plays in the search stats, but mainly in the number of people who simply enter the Web URL and get redirected to the mobile site or search for a brand name by simply entering it in the search box," Mr. Fridman said.

"Search in mobile is considerably less important than in online in driving discovery," he said.

"[The] iPhone matters and particularly sites that are optimized for iPhone -- not the standard Web sites -- drive disproportionately large traffic."