A previous version of this story combined the monthly mobile unique visitors for Facebook and Google and did not account for overlap.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It is no secret that mobile usage is replacing desktop. As readers change the way they consume their news, some companies are profiting from increased advertising and others still need to catch up to the pack.
United States' digital display advertising revenue totaled $22.2 billion in 2014 and is expected to increase in 2015 to $27.1 billion, according to research firm eMarketer. But two companies, Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG) (GOOGL), generate the lion's share of that revenue.
So with this much money at stake and two companies taking in approximately 38% of it, what's left for traditional media companies? How can they insure they get to play in the advertising game?
Google and Facebook have a comparative advantage in the mobile arena simply because they are technology-based companies, which enables them to move across platforms more organically, CEO Scott Ferber, whose company, Videology specializes in video advertising, said in an email.
Ferber said media companies need to make their programming more "sticky" in order to keep their target audiences coming back in the same way they would to check their social media or to search on Google.
"The [New York] Times and The [Wall Street] Journal have incredible content," Gerry Graf, chief creative officer of ad agency Barton F. Graf 9000, said in an email. "In order to compete with the likes of Facebook and Google, it's imperative that they make their sites truly the only place where you can receive world class journalism."
Graf said that "advertisers go where the people go" so media companies have to figure out how to capture audiences on their mobile sites and applications and the advertisers will follow. But not all media companies are hoping to just attract audiences to their content -- some are hoping exposure will help generate user growth.
In May, New York Times Co., along with eight other media organizations, announced a deal with Facebook to produce "Instant Articles," in which articles will be directly shown from the Facebook app so that users will not have to wait as long for articles to load in a separate window. As part of the deal, news publishers can either sell or embed advertisements in the articles without having to share revenue with Facebook or they can allow Facebook to place advertisements and split revenues, with the social networking site taking 30%.
Many question if the deal will hurt the participating companies' user numbers because they will no longer be directed back to the original publisher's site, but the companies rejected this claim, saying spreading their content across a wider platform is more important than driving users back to their site.
Facebook had more than 158 million unique mobile visitors in May, while Google had nearly 170 million unique mobile visitors, according to research firm comScore. In May, the New York Times Digital and News Corp's (NWSA) Dow Jones & Company had 38.4 million and 15.9 million unique mobile visitors, respectively.
Clearly, neither The New York Times nor The Wall Street Journal will be able to reach the audience levels of Facebook or Google by boosting both the quality and quantity of their content alone. Brian Suthoff, chief strategy officer for marketing and analytics group Localytics, said media companies need to better understand their end user in order to profit from mobile advertising.
"If you look at a Facebook or a Google, the reason they perform so well is they are able to give people the right message at the right time," Suthoff said in a phone interview. "And in order to do that, and know what the right message is, you need to know the user and the more you know their preferences, behaviors and how they interact with your own brand, the better you're able to deliver advertising that will perform better than the advertising at other places."
Facebook and Google both work as information gatherers in a sense. Both companies take user provided information and use it to target their users better.
In its data policy, Facebook said it collects information "when you sign up for an account, create or share, and message or communicate with others. This can include information in or about the content you provide, such as the location of a photo or the date a file was created." Facebook also collects information that other people provide on its servers about other users.