By Oliver Darcy, CNN
Facebook is shunning the news business in the US.
The Meta-owned company has quietly made changes in recent months that have dramatically reduced referral traffic to media outlets, more than half a dozen publishers told me. The move has put considerable dents in the daily traffic publishers see, with the damage appearing to be more pronounced among those who publish more hard news-oriented content.
“If you’re a major publisher, you’ve gotten nicked,” an executive at a major media company, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to frankly assess the situation, told me this week.
One publisher told me they’ve witnessed a more than 30% drop in year-over-year referral traffic. Another said they’ve seen a roughly 40% drop. But both of those publishers produce a healthy volume of lifestyle content. Those who publish more hard news-focused content have seen far steeper drop-offs.
“Facebook nuked everyone’s traffic,” a news-focused publisher told me, adding that the platform had since tweaked its all-mighty algorithm to provide a fix, but that the adjustment “hadn’t fixed” the problem much and that referral traffic was still far below what it was a year ago.
The issue is notable, given how much traffic the social media platform once sent to digital publishers. In the heyday of Facebook, news outlets were treated to a firehose of clicks, with articles regularly going viral on the platform. The amount of traffic, however, has waned considerably in recent years, taking a toll on outlets that built business models reliant on the company. The recent changes reduce the already lackluster levels of referral traffic even more.
A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment. But the changes publishers are seeing are in lockstep with the sentiment toward news that the company’s executives have publicly voiced. After years and years of trying to court publishers, it’s evident that Mark Zuckerberg and company are headed for the news business exit.
The exit comes as lawmakers around the world become far more serious about forcing Big Tech companies like Meta to pay publishers for the content posted to their platforms. In response, Facebook has threatened to pull news content altogether from countries that pass such legislation. When Canada passed such legislation this summer, Meta pulled news content from its platform in the country, a decision that has generated significant blowback.