Facebook referral traffic to publisher sites plummets by 50%

Recent data from Chartbeat and Similarweb paints a grim picture for news publishers reliant on Facebook for traffic. The report reveals a staggering 50% decline in Facebook referral traffic to publisher websites over the past year.

The analysis, which tracked traffic to 792 news and media websites, utilized third-party tracking data to gauge the extent of Facebook’s influence on referral traffic. According to Press Gazette, aggregate Facebook traffic to news and media sites has plummeted by 58% over the last six years, from 1.3 billion in March 2018 to 561 million in March 2024. This decline accelerated in the last 12 months, with traffic from Facebook dropping by 50%.

Notably, Facebook’s share of total referrals has shrunk significantly since 2018, now driving less than a quarter of the visits it did six years ago, down from 30% to 7%. Smaller publishers have been hit particularly hard by this decline, experiencing substantial decreases in Facebook referrals over the past year.

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has been gradually reducing the presence of news content on its platforms. The termination of the Facebook News project in December signaled a shift away from supporting news publishers. More recently, Meta announced plans to limit the reach of political content to improve user experience, making political content opt-in by default.

The company’s emphasis on AI-recommended updates, especially video clips, has contributed to a decreased reliance on news posts. Meta is prioritizing time spent on its apps over user engagement metrics like comments and likes, aligning its algorithms to promote entertainment-focused content.

Mark Zuckerberg’s acknowledgment of user feedback regarding political content reinforces Meta’s pivot away from news and politics. The company aims to create a more positive user experience and reduce contentious debates within its platforms.

Written by Sophie Blake


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