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Building direct traffic is more important than ever for news publishers

By Amalie Nash

INMA

Denver, Colorado, United States

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INMA’s Newsroom Transformation Initiative held its first Webinar on January 24, covering a wide range of topics from news avoidance to user needs. We had an interesting conversation on direct traffic (you can read coverage of it here) — and the need for newsrooms to focus on bringing readers to their sites instead of relying on search and social for referrals.

Speaker Alexandra Beverfjord, executive vice president of Aller Media and CEO of Dagbladet, urged publishers to build a strategy for direct traffic instead of expending more resources on social media, given the significant declines in referrals from those sources.

Mariëlle Vermeer, chief data and social for Telegraaf/Mediahuis in the Netherlands, asked a question during the session that we weren’t able to get to but deserves further exploration. She pushed back on de-emphasising social media, given its appeal to target audiences, saying: “In my opinion, you have to grab everything.”

The Reuters Institute/Oxford University 2023 Digital News Report backs that up: The vast majority of those under 35 use social media, search engines, or news aggregators as their main way of getting news online.

However, the report also offers a stark view of search and social trends this year. Data from the analytics company Chartbeat, sourced for their report, shows aggregate Facebook traffic to news and media properties has declined by 48%, with traffic from X down 27% and Instagram by 10%. Publishers also expect a further substantial reduction in referral traffic as AI becomes integrated into search engines and other gateways. 

In the Reuters Institute survey, 77% of publishers say they’ll work harder on building direct links with readers via platforms they can control — their Web sites, apps, newsletters, and more.

Media analyst Thomas Baekdal also took up this subject in his November newsletter, in which he echoed that publishers need to focus on building their own audiences. 

“When we look specifically at direct traffic, we see that overall, there is a small but declining trend,” Baekdal wrote. “This, of course, is not good. Because of the problem we experience with social traffic, it has become vital for publishers to focus on building their own audiences ... meaning, getting people to come to you directly, and to have people use your journalism as a ‘destination’ rather than as a random click on Facebook.”

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About Amalie Nash

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