So what has this done to traffic for Australian publishers? Our friends at Chartbeat shared some preliminary data with us, and the numbers ain’t good.
Let’s first look specifically at Facebook referrals — traffic that comes from Facebook’s properties to an Australian news publisher’s website. This is what happened to Facebook referral traffic from within Australia to those publishers.
The X-axis here is a span of 38 hours, starting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sydney time. The first half of the chart looks pretty normal — a nice hearty plateau of Facebook traffic in the afternoon and evening Wednesday, followed by a normal overnight dip as Australians go to sleep. The next morning, traffic started to creep up as it would on a typical day — until Facebook turns off the tap around 5:30 a.m. local time.
From that point, daytime traffic looks like the dead of night. In the 6 p.m. hour on Wednesday, Facebook sent 201,000 pageviews to Australian publishers. Twenty-four hours later, it sent just 14,000 — a 93 percent drop.
Oh dear – that can’t be good.
What is the bottom line here?
If this shutoff continues, I’d imagine that the more dedicated news consumers might adapt in ways that are, on net, positive for publishers. Maybe they go to a newspaper’s website more often, or they sign up for a daily newsletter to get their fix. But the casual reader of news on Facebook — and that’s most users, given that news stories make up only about 4 percent of the typical News Feed — might just skip out on news entirely.
Maybe Facebook and Australia will mend their rabbit-proof fences and this state of affairs will be short-lived. But until then, publishers have probably lost a decent-sized chunk of their audience.
Those same publishers keep telling us that Facebook is the big loser here, but I’m not seeing that in the data.
Ironically, this story itself cannot be shared on Facebook.