Where Do People Find News Online? This New Report Highlights Leading Traffic Source Referrals For Publishers

It can be said without any double that search has really grown to new heights when it comes down to efficient traffic sources in the news world. But at the same time, we’re saying hello to a decline in social media.

The stats come to us from The Press Gazette which underwent a complete analysis of Chartbeat data.

The study examined results from the past five years where nearly 546 different news sites from both the US and the UK were tracked, starting in 2018. The goal was to see which sources were serving as growth leaders in terms of traffic for publishers and which were falling short of the endeavor.

Depending on the sites of this particular analysis, the number of page view shares that publishers got through search underwent a slight increase from 33% during the first year of the dataset to 35% in the following year which was March 2023.

Meanwhile, the page views coming from top social media apps showed a slight decline from 32% to 30% during this same time.

The lead has definitely widened in terms of social media as the leading referral source.

The Press Gazette saw page view referrals arising from various channels other than internals and that means page views came about after users on the site appeared to be interested in seeing how people found news other than the publisher’s own home ground. The analysis further went on to see how many page views came from sources like social media apps, direct traffic sources, and external locations.

Visitors navigated directly to some landing pages on leading websites. Meanwhile, Search was definitely the top source for news pages after looking at the conclusive data from the past five years. Moreover, there were some exceptions to this including 2019 where social media did slightly race ahead of the game.

Most searches arise through the world’s leading search engine Google. But less than 5% did come from the likes of Microsoft and Bing.

Are we surprised to see Google dominating the search landscape with nearly 95% of the page views getting generated? No, we are not. The monthly page views thanks to search are trending in an upward direction and so is the volume of searches done and time users spend on such platforms.

But we do need to take a moment out and say that Facebook is still at the top of its game. Despite the Meta-owned app taking a step back from the news, the app’s share for traffic in this category continues to dominate and is much greater than other top social media apps. Meanwhile, Facebook managed to produce page views that were nearly eight times as much as the popular microblogging site Twitter in the past year.

So we see Facebook contributing a share to news websites and the referral traffic being similar to levels before the pandemic. But what we’re seeing now is how it's moving in a downward direction. Other apps like Reddit, Pinterest, and LinkedIn produced far fewer page views than Facebook did but it did undergo a slight increase in page views at one point in time, the analysis revealed.

Then we looked at the engaged timings for social media increased by nearly 50% during that time period. On the other hand, the time spent by users on a certain website after receiving referrals from Facebook went down from 356 billion seconds to just 273 billion seconds in one year. During this time, Twitter witnessed a fall in users staying engaged too.

The solution is simple here. Since search is dominant, Google’s algorithm may undergo changes and cause traffic to fluctuate. Hence, publishers can make the most of this by diversifying traffic sources. And experimentation is key.

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