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Traffic has fallen to Australian news sites after Facebook blocks the content

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Facebook page was shown without posts in Sydney yesterday. (AP photo)

New York: Total web traffic to Australian news sites fell about 13% after Facebook Inc banned their content on the social media platform this week, according to preliminary data confirming the US company’s huge impact on the domestic market.

Data from New York-based analytics firm Chartbeat showed that the increase in traffic to news sites from Google may be outweighed by the significant decline in traffic from Facebook.

A Chartbeat spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, the disappearance of Facebook has hurt publisher traffic numbers: When Facebook traffic decreased, the overall Australian traffic did not divert to other platforms.”

Chartbeat data, which compared domestic and foreign traffic to about 250 Australian news publishers on the Wednesday before the ban through Thursday, provides some first concrete evidence of the impact of Facebook’s move.

On Wednesday, the social media giant banned users from sharing or reading news from Australian publishers on its platform to protest a looming law that would force it and Alphabet Inc to Google to pay publishers for content.

Google and Facebook jointly campaigned against the laws, which Parliament is expected to pass within days, and both have threatened to cancel services in Australia. However, Google has struck protective deals with several media outlets in recent days.

Chartbeat data showed that total traffic to Australian news sites from various platforms used outside the country fell by nearly 30%.

Chartbeat said the proportion of Australia’s traffic to news sites from Google Search rose from around 26% the day before the ban to around 34% after that, while traffic from Facebook decreased from around 21% to around 2%.

The analytics company said it counts Australian Broadcasting Corp and Australian Community Media among the publishers it works with, but was unable to determine if specific publishers were included in this data.

Chartbeat data also found that the percentage of traffic to news sites coming from Facebook outside of Australia decreased from around 30% to around 4%, while Google search grew from around 38% to around 52%.

A Chartbeat spokeswoman said foreign readers of Australian news sites are heavily driven by Facebook, with historical data showing that around 15% of visits to Australian publishers are driven by Facebook compared to 12% of visits to publishers globally.

A 2020 University of Canberra study found that 21% of Australians use social media as their main news source and 39% of the population use Facebook to receive news.

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