Beyond Facebooks Trying Relationship Newspapers | FTI Consulting

Looking Beyond Facebook’s Trying Relationship with Newspapers

Telecom, Media & Technology (TMT) | Corporate Finance & Restructuring

March 2, 2018


Over the last few weeks, Facebook has announced multiple changes to its newsfeed which we believe will have a profound impact on newspapers. Facebook is:

  1. Reducing news and other advertising related content significantly;
  2. Initiating trustworthiness surveys to prioritize more content from trusted sources; and
  3. Prioritizing local news stories over national news.

As a result of these changes, newspapers are sure to see sizeable referral traffic declines which in turn will lead to reduced website traffic. Preliminary data tracked by already indicates that Facebook as a referring source of traffic has declined ~20% globally from the changes rolled-out internationally in the past 12 months.1 The graph also shows other social platforms do not provide meaningful referral traffic and can’t make up for Facebook referral losses.

Making matters worse, by Facebook’s own measurement, time spent on Facebook declined by a total of 50 million hours a day in Q4 2017.2 According to Reuter’s 2017 Digital News Report,3 45% of online users get news from Facebook in the form of FB Instant articles or links back to publishers’ websites – driving both digital traffic and advertising revenue for the newspapers.

As Facebook users spend less time on the platform and see less content from publishers in their newsfeed, newspapers are likely to see both traffic and revenues decline. Such declines will need to be offset by either increased Search or Direct traffic - which will not come easily. And since most newspapers have already maximized their efforts on direct traffic reach, the loss of referral traffic may not be replaceable. The only other option would be to buy traffic, but this is often not cost effective.

Content Sources:
1., 2018: Source 
2. CNBC, 2018: Source 
3. Reuters Institute Digital News Report, 2017: Source

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