Web traffic from Facebook to Australian publishers has seen a significant decline of over 50% since the beginning of this year. Despite having ongoing deals with media outlets, Facebook’s referrals to news articles published in Australia have plummeted. Analytics from SimilarWeb show that combined referrals from social media platforms to popular Australian news websites have dropped from nearly 50 million to just over 20 million a month, with Facebook referrals being the majority.
This decrease in traffic is not unique to Australian publishers. Globally, Facebook’s referrals have fallen from 12% to 6% as a source for content websites, according to The Social Media Index. The decline in traffic is occurring as Facebook’s deals under the Australian News Media Bargaining Code, which required negotiations and payments to publishers for content, are about to expire.
Reports suggest that Facebook’s shift away from news content is intentional. The company’s focus has shifted towards AI-recommended content and its Reels video product as it competes with platforms like TikTok. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg highlighted the growth of AI-recommended content on the platform during a results call in July.
Publishers have also been diversifying their distribution channels in anticipation of Facebook’s pivot away from news. Many publishers have focused on building owned audiences, direct relationships, developing apps, and producing valuable content that attracts readers. Additionally, search engine optimization (SEO) has become more important as publishers adapt to changes in online traffic patterns.
While the decline in Facebook referrals is seen as a loss for publishers in terms of market reach, some view it as an opportunity to distance themselves from a platform known for misinformation and attention-maximizing algorithms. The Conversation’s editor expressed concerns about news media’s association with Facebook, stating that it devalues the quality of journalism produced.
Facebook’s algorithm changes or the shift away from news content have not been commented on Meta, the parent company of Facebook. However, the company has stated that news is not the primary reason why most users engage with their apps, and that publishers still benefit economically from using their platform.
– The Social Media Index