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Publishers see a big drop in traffic from Facebook referrals as the social platform makes it clear that it is leaving the news business.

Facebook is actively distancing itself from the news industry within the United States.

According to multiple publications, the corporation owned by Meta has implemented discreet modifications in recent months, resulting in a significant decrease in referral traffic to various media outlets. The implementation of this action has resulted in significant reductions in the amount of traffic that publishers receive on a daily basis. The negative impact seems to be particularly noticeable among publications who primarily produce material that focuses on hard news.

According to an executive from a prominent media organization, who requested anonymity, large publishers have experienced some setbacks.

According to a publisher, there has been an observed decline of over 30% in year-over-year referral traffic. Another individual reported observing a decrease of approximately 40%. However, both of these publishers provide a substantial amount of lifestyle content. Publishers who produce a higher volume of content with a concentration on hard news have experienced significantly more pronounced declines.

According to a news-focused publisher, Facebook significantly reduced the amount of traffic received by all users. The platform subsequently made adjustments to its algorithm in an attempt to address this issue. However, the publisher noted that these modifications have not effectively resolved the problem, since referral traffic remains much lower compared to the previous year.

The matter at hand is noteworthy, considering the significant amount of web traffic that the social media platform formerly directed towards digital publications. During the peak period of Facebook’s popularity, news organizations had a significant influx of user engagement, as pieces frequently achieved viral status on the platform. In recent years, there has been a significant decline in the volume of traffic, which has had a detrimental impact on media platforms that heavily relied on this corporation for their business models. The current modifications further diminish the already subpar amounts of referral traffic.

The representative from Meta declined to provide any remark. However, the alterations observed by publishers are closely aligned with the attitude towards news that has been publicly expressed by the management of the organization. It is apparent that Mark Zuckerberg and his associates are on the verge of exiting the news industry, following numerous attempts over an extended period to engage publishers.

The emergence of the exit coincides with a growing global trend among legislators to impose stricter regulations on major technology corporations, such as Meta, in order to ensure compensation for publishers whose material is shared on these platforms. In response, Facebook has issued a warning to potentially withdraw news material entirely from nations who enact such legislation. When the legislation was enacted in Canada during the summer, Meta made the decision to remove news items from its platform in the country. This choice has resulted in substantial backlash.

There has been a longstanding argument in the field of media studies that posits the notion that publishers are more reliant on Facebook as a platform, compared to the level of dependence that Facebook has on publishers. According to a statement made by the firm in a post published in March, Facebook stated that news content does not constitute a significant portion of its platform on a worldwide scale. The company also emphasized that posts containing links to news items make up less than 3% of the content seen in users’ Facebook Feeds.

The presence of misinformation and deception in news content poses significant challenges for Meta, leading to several complications that the company must address. The company’s assessment is that dealing with complex and controversial matters, which have occasionally led Zuckerberg and other executives to testify before Congress due to allegations of “censorship,” is not deemed to be a worthwhile endeavor. According to Meta, the perceived benefits of the juice do not outweigh the effort required to obtain it.

Adam Mosseri, the executive at Meta responsible for overseeing Instagram, explicitly stated throughout the summer that the company’s recently launched text-based application called Threads will not actively promote or facilitate news and political content on the platform.

In his statement, Mosseri acknowledges the significance of politics and hard news, emphasizing that he does not want to suggest differently. However, in my opinion, considering the viewpoint of a platform, the potential increase in user engagement or money is not justified by the potential negative attention, criticism, and threats to integrity that may accompany these actions.

According to the publishers with whom I conversed, there is a prevailing suspicion that Meta exhibits hesitancy in directing consumers to external platforms, likely due to its aspiration to establish dominance in the advertising industry. Publishers in Canada have formally requested the nation’s antitrust regulator to investigate the potential negative impact of the company on their capacity to effectively participate in online advertising markets.

In light of Meta’s endeavors to rival TikTok, the organization has been compelled to allocate more space on its platforms for short-form video material, consequently diminishing the prominence of news content.

Irrespective of the underlying rationale, the company’s decision to terminate its association with news outlets is an additional challenge within a tumultuous and uncertain environment that publishers are striving to manage, with varying degrees of success.

According to one of the publishers with whom I conversed, news publishers are currently experiencing the simultaneous bursting of three bubbles. There are three noteworthy observations to be made: firstly, there appears to be a waning interest in the public about Donald Trump; secondly, the perception exists that the pandemic has concluded; and lastly, there is a prevailing sentiment that Facebook has ceased to exist.

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