Digital Publishing Platforms
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Facebook referral traffic to publishers has ‘plummeted’

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Analytics data shows how Facebook referral traffic to publisher sites has fallen

Press Gazette is reporting that Facebook referral traffic has ‘plummeted’ on the back of Meta’s continued turn away from the news industry. The scale of the fall is highlighted by data shared with the industry title by publisher analytics firm Chartbeat and digital intelligence platform Similarweb.

5-year drop

  • The data shared by Chartbeat is drawn from 1,350 global publishers. It shows that in January 2018, of the page views coming from external, search and social, 27% or 2 billion page views came from Facebook. By April 2023, this had dropped to 11% or 1.5 billion.
  • The analysis echoes a recent complaint from the UK’s biggest local and national news publisher Reach. Seeing a 14.5% digital revenue drop for the first four months of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022, Reach blamed a page-view slowdown on “recent changes to the way Facebook presents news content”.
  • The closing of Buzzfeed News also spotlights the plight of publishing strategies that rely on social media referrals. In April 2020, desktop referrals to Buzzfeed from Facebook accounted for 76% of all its social referrals. Last month that had fallen to 34%. According to Similarweb, the number of visits to Buzzfeed News from Facebook fell 110% from April 2021 to March 2023; down from 261,669 to 124,825.

Smaller publishers

  • For Press Gazette, Aisha Majid writes that, while publishers of all sizes have been impacted by the fall in Facebook referral traffic, smaller publishers have suffered the biggest relative drop.
  • Looking at 486 small publishers with less than 10,000 average daily page views, Chartbeat’s data shows that, for April, Facebook referral traffic volume has fallen 98% from a 2018 baseline. For large publishers with more than 100,000 average daily pageviews, the fall was 24%, while for mediun publishers with between 10,000 and 100,000 average daily page views, the fall was 46%.
  • Commenting on Press Gazette’s report, Jacob Donnelly at A Media Operator said:

That is a massive drop for small publishers. Is it any wonder that smaller local news outlets have seen traffic crater? Imagine getting 1,000 daily page views from Facebook and seeing that drop to 20 over the years. That would be gutting.

Across the board falls

Facebook referral traffic to both legacy and digital publishers has fallen sharply. All sites in a mix of  28 selected by Press Gazette – 14 legacy publishers and 14 digital – saw a large reduction in the share of social traffic coming from Facebook.

  • Women’s lifestyle publisher Refinery 29 saw the largest fall in referrals on the Press Gazette list – down 92% between April 2021 and March 2023. Two Reach sites, the national and the regional, saw Facebook referral traffic down 87% in the same period.
  • The data also suggests that Facebook’s importance as a referral source compared to other social networks has been falling. In April 2020, 95% of Ladbible’s social referrals on desktop came from Facebook. This had fallen to less than 50% by March 2023.
  • For UK tabloid The Sun, the reduction is even more stark, down from 75% to 25%, and the Daily Mail gets more of its desktop referral traffic from Twitter and just as much from Youtube.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.