(via Facebook now ‘critical’ to online news traffic, says Pew study)
According to the study, Facebook alone drives up to 8 percent of traffic to some of the Internet’s top news sites. In turn, users are leaving these sites to go to Facebook, which the researchers say is an indication that the Facebook Share buttons provided on many news stories (like this one) are working.
While this may sound impressive, Facebook currently remains well behind the top three traffic drivers, which include Google, the Drudge Report and Yahoo. According to Pew, these “three sites ever account for more than 10 percent of the traffic to any one [major news website].”
Emphasis mine. Those clicks to-from Facebook are tracked—why are social network referral stats only as solid as an “indication”? Isn’t that skipping the (well-trod) question of whether there’s long-term value to such traffic? I’m sure neither FB or news orgs wanting to share official statistics, especially with recent declines. The growth of Facebook as a news referrer has a lot to do with the prominence of shared news in their frequently adjusted News Feed algorithm. That—along with certain content themes like Entertainment news—drives the majority of the referral patterns I’ve seen over the past three years or more. Facebook’s pace over other social sites is more a factor of its size and—until recently—its choice to strongly promote news in their Feed mix.
Do those readers stick around? Do the read more news once they arrive at a news site? Anecdotally, the data I know is that they don’t. A popular social network news story is either headline snacking or an isolated spike.
“Critical” is a very strong term for mere indicators—I’m reading through the full report today. I’ll amend this if the headline, pulled quote and chart above (one of many) is backed up with a deeper investigation into social referral value to news orgs.