Facebook referral traffic for major news publishers drops by 50%

Facebook referral traffic for major news publishers drops by 50%

A major internet analytics firm claims that data shows Facebook referral traffic for major news publishers has dropped by 50% in 12 months, according to a report published in the Press Gazette.

According to the report, Google’s first core algorithm update of 2024 did not favor most publishers, as hundreds of news media groups experienced a gradual decline in referral traffic, even up to 50%.

News publisher analytics firm Chartbeat and digital intelligence platform Similarweb track about 792 news and media websites. Chartbeat reports that referrals from social media platforms, particularly Facebook, have seen a sharp decline. Over the past six years, there has been a staggering 58% drop in referrals to news sites, dropping from 1.3 billion in March 2018 to just 561 million last month.

Read: Meta agrees to stop algorithmic discrimination after settlement

Apparently, changes in Google’s search algorithm over the past 18 months have caused traffic to drop for many news outlets. This is compounded by the many updates that rolled out in March.

Major news giants also reported the lowest page views in the first quarter of 2024. For example, the UK’s largest commercial news publisher Reach has reported a drop in page views by a third over the same period.

But the shockwaves continued across other parts of the industry. The UK Online Publishers Association and the company Deloitte surveyed nine B2C publishers and four B2B publishers and found that their revenue had fallen by 47 percent in the last quarter of 2023 due to Facebook’s decision to reduce the priority of news in user feeds as the main reason.

Smaller publishers have been hit harder. The combined pageviews from Facebook for the 316 smaller publishers in the analysis (ie those with less than 10,000 average daily pageviews) are at just 2% of March 2018 levels!

However, Youth-focused publishers such as Unilad, Bust and Upworthy show a relatively sustained or lowest decline in referral reach. The share of social referrals from Facebook to female publisher sites increased from 6% to 11% between 2021 and 2024.

Big media

Several well-known news publishers showed sharp declines. The Independent sees the share of social referrals from Facebook fall from 19% in 2021 to 6% in 2024. The Mirror declines from 22 per cent to 7 per cent, the Daily Star loses reach from 25 to 5 per cent.

Apart from the change by Google, Facebook’s algorithm focuses on “family and friends” instead of News Feed on news media outlets.

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