Working Together to Make Sense of Facebook’s News Feed

At Chartbeat, we are committed to helping our clients and all publishers understand and make sense of the effect that platforms, particularly Facebook traffic, have on the readership of their stories. In the wake of last week’s release about the changes Facebook is making to prioritize so-called “friends and family” content in the News Feed, we’re putting together global benchmarks to give all publishers, clients and not, a way to understand and act on these changes.

Facebook’s Referral Impact to Date

Facebook has been an important referral partner for publishers. Chartbeat tracks just over 50 billion page views a month across thousands of publishers in 65 countries. In aggregate, 13% of those page views (and 30% of all “external” page views) are driven by referrals from Facebook. In both metrics, Facebook is the second largest referrer behind Google search which, by comparison, drives 21% of total page views and 40% of external referrals.

Since 2016, there have been over twenty announced changes to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. Despite all of those changes, Chartbeat saw no meaningful decline in aggregate referrals from Facebook to our client base from January 2016 until October 2017. Since October 2017, however, we have seen an almost 15% decline in Facebook referrals across our client base.  

Throughout this entire time period, we have also seen that an individual publisher’s traffic from Facebook can vary quite a lot based on a number of factors (algorithm changes, seasonality, virality of specific articles, etc.). In fact, for most publishers the average difference between their largest Facebook referral month and their smallest is a surprising 75%.

This new change may have an even larger effect on publishers. Facebook itself is predicting a decline in its own referrals to publishers. Last week, Facebook News Feed VP Adam Mosseri said that he “expect[s] that the amount of distribution for publishers will go down” as a direct result of this change. Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships, wrote to publishers that “some pages may see their reach, video watch time, and referral traffic decrease as the updates roll out over the next couple of months.” Joshua Benton at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard wrote a particularly thoughtful piece predicting what the downstream impact this change will have for journalism and for publishers.

Chartbeat Benchmarks for All Publishers

At Chartbeat, we know how challenging it will be for publishers to determine whether the Facebook traffic changes they are seeing in their own analytics systems (including Chartbeat) are isolated or part of a broader trend. To make sense of all these changes and adjust your strategy, executives, editors, journalists, audience development teams and social media teams need to know the facts and have solid industry-wide data on the global effects of Facebook’s changes.

To that end, Chartbeat is offering all publishers global benchmarking data on this Facebook change:

  1. On an ongoing basis, we will post a chart on this blog showing anonymized and aggregated Facebook referral traffic across the entire Chartbeat network;
  2. For all Chartbeat clients that want to monitor the change this quarter, we will happily place your own Facebook referral traffic layered on top of a similar chart to help you spot your own trends. Please reach out to your Chartbeat Customer Success Manager;
  3. For non-clients, we will do the same free of charge for this quarter and with no obligation to purchase our products. To get the most accurate benchmarks will require a small integration on your site.

Most of all, we are here. If you would just like to chat about what we have historically seen or what we expect from Facebook, please reach out to me (, Josh Schwartz, Chief of Product, Engineering and Data Science (, or your Customer Success Manager.

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