In recent weeks I’ve gotten a handful of notes from people letting me know that something or other is up with websites they work at or run. “You have probably heard this from everyone, but everyone within Hearst is FREAKING OUT because something happened in FB in last three months where traffic is tanking,” said one. I’ve heard similar things about some, but not all, properties at Conde Nast, which, hmm, just acquired Pitchfork? Congratulations!
A number of sites at Gawker Media have fallen off; last week, Gawker.com Editor in Chief John Cook wrote in a memo to employees: “Traffic is flat.” He attributed this, partially, to underperforming writers. At small, less-diversified sites, which were aware and worried about this possibility, and at large, and extremely diversified new media companies, which were aware of and nominally betting on this possibility, the story is similar: referrals from social sites either plateaued or slowed earlier this year, and now they’re falling. Some absolutely, some relative to post volume. On Facebook, a link is worth relatively less than a photo or a video. In theory, it’s also worth less than an Instant Article, but those are still “rolling out” (lol) due to what is apparently a messy and difficult implementation. Regarding Instant Articles, the latest line from Facebook to publishers is “you’ll hear from us first when we’re ready to ramp up.” Regarding traffic woes, some publishers have been told to expect an update this week or “soon.”