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Facebook’s referral traffic for major news publishers down by 50%

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Major internet analytics firms claimed that the data showed Facebook’s referral traffic for major news publishers was down by 50% in 12 months, according to a report published in Press Gazette.

According to the report, Google's first core algorithm update of 2024 did not favour the vast majority of 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 tracked some 792 news and media websites. Chartbeat reported that referrals from social media platforms, particularly Facebook, have witnessed a steep decline. Over the past six years, there's been a staggering 58% plunge in referrals to news sites, dropping from a whopping 1.3 billion in March 2018 to just 561 million last month.

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Apparently, the changes in Google's search algorithm over the last 18 months led to falling traffic for many news outlets. This was compounded by many updates rolled out in March.

Major news giants also reported the lowest page views in the first quarter of 2024. For instance, the UK’s biggest commercial news publisher Reach has reported page views down by a third in the same span of time.

But the shockwave continued across other parts of the industry. The UK Association of Online Publishers and Deloitte company surveyed nine B2C and four B2B publishers and discovered that their revenues had fallen by 47 per cent in the last quarter of 2023 as Facebook’s decision to deprioritise news in user feeds as a major cause.

Smaller publishers have been even harder hit. Combined page view referrals from Facebook for the 316 smaller publishers in the analysis (i.e. those with less than 10,000 average daily page views) stand at just 2% of March 2018 levels!

However, Youth-focused publishers like Unilad, Bust and Upworthy showed relatively maintained or lowest decrease in the referrals reach. The share of social referrals from Facebook to the women's publisher's site increased from 6% to 11% between 2021 and 2024.

The big media

Several well-known news publishers showed a steep decline. The Independent saw share of social referrals from Facebook fall from 19% in 2021 to 6% in 2024. Mirror slipped from 22 per cent to 7 per cent, Daily Star lost reach from 25 to 5 per cent.

Apart from the changes by Google, Facebook’s algorithm focused on "family and friends" rather than News Feed hit the news media outlets.

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