Meta’s retreat from news content is hurting traffic for media outlets: report

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By Dan Sears

News outlets are experiencing major losses in visitor traffic – and hits to their revenue – as Facebook and Instagram parent Meta pivots away from the news business, according to a report.

Despite its massive base of more than three billion users, Mark Zuckerberg’s social-media apps accounted for just 33% of overall social media traffic by page views for major news sites in December, CNBC reported.

That was down from 50% in the same month one year earlier, according to traffic analytics firm Chartbeat’s analysis of 1,930 media sites that was provided to the network.

Meta has dialed back on news in the face of a series of scandals – including mounting political scrutiny over a failure to share revenue with media outlets.

Meta also has faced allegations that Facebook and Instagram became hotbeds of election-related misinformation and political bias, as well as lawsuits over their failure to protect young users.

Facebook accounted for just 6% of external traffic referral volume from social media platforms and search engines in December – down from 14% in the same month five years ago in 2018, according to the report’s findings.

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News outlets have seen declines in referral traffic. prima91 – stock.adobe.com

One outlet, the political news nonprofit Mother Jones, has reportedly experienced a whopping 99% in traffic from Facebook compared to its peak several years ago.

The site had just 67,000 visitors in December after once hitting as many as 5 million back in 2017.

“At this point, it seems pretty clear from the comments that executives at Facebook and Meta made that they have just decided that news is more trouble than it’s worth and that they will show people a fairly minimal amount of it,” Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein told CNBC.

A Meta spokesperson told CNBC that the shift is due to changes in user behavior.

“We know that people don’t come to Facebook for news and political content — they come to connect with people and discover new opportunities, passions and interests,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve made several changes to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most.”

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The Post has reached out to Meta for further comment.

As The Post reported, a recent analysis published by Columbia University found that Facebook should conservatively pay publishers at least $1.9 billion per year as a fair share of ad revenue produced by their search traffic.

The same study found Google should pay between $10 billion and $12 billion per year.


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Lawmakers have pushed Meta to pay publishers for news content. Facebook

Meta has fiercely resisted efforts by lawmakers in the US and abroad to pass laws that would require them to share ad revenue with news outlets in exchange for use of their content.

Last year, Meta blocked users in Canada from accessing news content on Facebook and Instagram – a move that came after Canadian lawmakers passed a pay mandate. Canadian outlets reportedly face major declines in traffic and revenue as a result of that decision.

Meta also enacted plans last fall to “deprecate” its Facebook News tab for users in the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The company said it was “part of an ongoing effort to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most.”

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The social media giant had similarly pulled out of Australia in 2021, only to later return after striking a deal with lawmakers.

In the US, Meta has also threatened to yank news content entirely for California users after state lawmakers advanced a bill that would require major “online platforms” to pay a “journalism usage fee.”

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