What we know about the recent drop in Facebook Instant Article traffic

We regularly field questions from our customers about how their data compares to global referral and engagement patterns. In May, when several of our partners notified us of a substantial drop in Facebook Instant Article (FBIA) traffic, we investigated mobile Facebook traffic across the Chartbeat network to find out if these were isolated incidents or indicators of a greater shift in platform or reader behavior.

FBIA traffic has declined in recent months

Across the Chartbeat network, we found that FBIA traffic has been declining on both iOS and Android. In mid-April, FBIA traffic on iOS dropped precipitously for about one week before returning to previous downward-trending levels that more closely mirror the steady decline seen on Android. 

During this period, total Facebook traffic from mobile devices remained steady as non-FBIA Facebook referrals generally increased to account for the decline in FBIA referrals.

Increase in non-FBIA traffic not consistent across regions

Though all regions were affected by the drop in FBIA traffic in April, non-FBIA Facebook traffic behaved differently by continent. In some areas, decreases in FBIA traffic corresponded with analogous increases in non-FBIA Facebook traffic. This was most pronounced in Europe, Asia, and South America.

For readers in North America and Oceania, however, while FBIA traffic dropped, there was no related increase in non-FBIA Facebook traffic.

Key takeaways from the data

1. Global FBIA traffic has generally been declining since March. 

2. Total Facebook traffic from mobile has remained steady during this period.

3. With no confirmation from Facebook itself, we can’t pinpoint the exact reason for the substantial drop in FBIA traffic, but some partners have suggested that it could be related to Facebook tests, an iOS bug, or changes in privacy and tracking.

4. As we’ve done in the past with Facebook and other major referrers, we’ll continue to monitor this development so we can help publishers predict and react to platform changes in real time.

More in Research