Facebook Giveth, and Facebook Taketh Away

Social Leaderboard Results for May:  Traffic Is Down Across the Board

Facebook threw publishers a curve ball in April:  an algorithm change combined with a pullback in social reader promotion.  And it had a big impact, causing the top 50 web publishers to lose more than 10% of their social traffic in just one month.  The May Social Leaderboard shows that they still haven’t recovered:  the average publisher’s social traffic was flat in May, matching April’s dip.

The dramatic drop in traffic set off alarms with some social publishing pioneers – the Social Reader had been the one bright spot on an otherwise dark and winding path into digital media.  Is the honeymoon over?

 

Facebook’s Relationship With Publishers:  It’s Complicated

Publishers who embraced Social Readers have every right to feel like Facebook’s scorned lovers right now.  Facebook seemed to have pulled the plug, right when the relationship was blossoming.  But through the tears, might this actually be good for the relationship?  In the long term, what’s in the best interest of publishers is also in the best interest of Facebook:  if users are being served the right content at the right time in the right way and clicking through at a high rate, everybody is happy.

Facebook, it seems, has decided it needs some space.  Before they fully commit, they’re sowing their wild oats by experimenting with user experience, testing and tuning.  This experimentation happened to take the publisher-friendly form of heavy Social Reader promotion over several previous months – but now they have turned the dial back.

Presumably, Facebook is dialing back social reader promotion to figure out how much friction is right for sharing.  Frictionless sharing may be part of our future, but accidental over-sharing could undermine the present.  Imagine the scenario:  I unwittingly broadcast “Ben is reading Home Hair Removal for Men,” and the phone rings:   It’s my mother with her assuredly well-intentioned advice.  And yet, how mortifying.  Who could blame me for deleting my account forever?

More tuning will bring about the right controls to manage private activity.  Ultimately, those controls will support more sharing.  At that point, the lead-out dial on Facebook’s dashboard will likely be turned back up, and we can all start planning our second honeymoon.

 

Strugglers and Survivors

As for the top publishers this month, nobody on the Leaderboard made great strides in social traffic, but a few publishers kept their heads above water better than others.  MTV gained 2 percentage points in social traffic composition, bringing them up to 10.9% social and making them the third most social web publisher.  People held onto the #2 spot on the board by holding steady at 11.5%.  NFL and TMZ were the only other publishers to improve their social composition this month, each gaining 1 percentage point.

Wetpaint Entertainment had a cushioned lead – we lost 7 percentage points of social composition from April to May, making us the most hard-hit publisher by the Facebook changes, even while holding on to the lead.  While my company is still the leader on percentage terms, total volume tells a different story, as the benchmark data shows we slid seven spots (to #14) in that ranking.

 

 

Details for Top 50 Publishers:

MONTHLY RANKINGS

May

Apr

Mar

Publisher URL

Monthly Uniques

% from Social

Change

1

1

1

Wetpaint Entertainment WETPAINT.COM

                 4,012,641

30.8%

-7.3%

2

2

3

People PEOPLE.COM

               12,174,195

11.5%

0.1%

3

4

8

MTV MTV.COM

                 9,674,892

10.9%

1.9%

4

3

2

NBC Universal NBC.COM

                 7,964,950

10.5%

0.4%

5

5

5

National Football League NFL.COM

                 4,821,558

10.4%

1.4%

6

7

4

CBS CBS.COM

                 7,190,888

8.9%

0.1%

7

9

9

TMZ TMZ.COM

               12,288,156

8.6%

0.9%

8

10

15

Yahoo! YAHOO.COM

             154,820,184

7.2%

-0.2%

9

8

12

Patch (Aol) PATCH.COM

               11,746,588

7.1%

-0.6%

10

11

10

Major League Baseball MLB.COM

               14,100,489

6.7%

-0.2%

11

12

17

Aol AOL.COM

               46,798,608

6.2%

-0.1%

12

14

7

Break Media BREAK.COM

                 7,987,804

5.9%

-0.1%

13

15

13

Discovery Channel DISCOVERY.COM

               11,213,913

5.5%

-0.2%

14

19

18

TV Guide TVGUIDE.COM

                 6,077,003

5.4%

0.2%

15

16

11

Entertainment Weekly EW.COM

                 7,348,060

5.2%

-0.4%

16

17

16

IGN (News Corp) IGN.COM

                 8,612,512

5.2%

0.0%

17

18

6

US Weekly USMAGAZINE.COM

                 6,873,880

5.0%

-0.2%

18

22

26

MSN MSN.COM

               95,931,716

4.9%

0.0%

19

21

21

CNN CNN.COM

               42,308,122

4.9%

-0.1%

20

20

22

FOX News (News Corp) FOXNEWS.COM

               24,392,403

4.8%

-0.2%

21

13

19

TIME TIME.COM

                 8,870,094

4.4%

-1.8%

22

27

31

The Huffington Post (Aol) HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

               39,361,623

4.3%

0.4%

23

23

23

BBC News BBC.CO.UK

               14,030,015

4.2%

-0.4%

24

26

20

National Geographic Society NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC.COM

                 8,096,974

4.0%

0.0%

25

24

24

The Washington Post WASHINGTONPOST.COM

               16,415,782

4.0%

-0.4%

26

25

27

New York Times NYTIMES.COM

               28,401,893

3.9%

-0.3%

27

28

25

CBS News CBSNEWS.COM

               11,668,152

3.9%

0.0%

28

31

35

E! Entertainment Television EONLINE.COM

                 6,905,095

3.7%

0.3%

29

29

30

New York Daily News NYDAILYNEWS.COM

               10,059,573

3.7%

0.0%

30

32

28

FORBES FORBES.COM

               12,413,284

3.4%

0.1%

31

30

33

IMDB (Amazon.com) IMDB.COM

               34,981,883

3.3%

-0.2%

32

36

32

Bleacher Report BLEACHERREPORT.COM

                 9,248,603

3.2%

0.2%

33

33

29

Nickelodeon (MTV Networks) NICK.COM

                 8,960,646

3.2%

0.0%

34

34

38

Food Network (Scripps) FOODNETWORK.COM

               13,652,316

3.0%

-0.1%

35

6

14

The Guardian GUARDIAN.CO.UK

                 8,481,112

3.0%

-5.9%

36

38

40

Cartoon Network (Turner) CARTOONNETWORK.COM

                 8,035,517

2.8%

0.0%

37

37

39

Wall Street Journal (News Corp) WSJ.COM

               12,792,880

2.7%

-0.2%

38

35

34

Los Angeles Times (Tribune) LATIMES.COM

               15,064,947

2.7%

-0.3%

39

41

42

USA Today (Gannet) USATODAY.COM

               17,570,870

2.0%

0.0%

40

39

41

Reuters REUTERS.COM

                 8,928,289

2.0%

-0.4%

41

40

36

FOX Sports (News Corp) FOXSPORTS.COM

               19,207,713

2.0%

-0.1%

42

43

46

WebMD WEBMD.COM

               14,441,556

1.8%

0.0%

43

42

37

CNET (CBS Interactive) CNET.COM

               22,672,657

1.8%

-0.2%

44

44

45

Bloomberg BLOOMBERG.COM

                 7,351,621

1.7%

0.0%

45

46

43

Businessweek (Bloomberg) BUSINESSWEEK.COM

                 6,256,325

1.7%

0.3%

46

45

44

everyday Health EVERYDAYHEALTH.COM

                 9,883,208

1.6%

0.1%

47

47

47

ThePostGame (Yahoo) THEPOSTGAME.COM

              10,242,755

1.1%

-0.1%

48

49

48

LIVESTRONG (Demand Media) LIVESTRONG.COM

               14,378,579

1.1%

0.0%

49

48

49

About.com (NY Times) ABOUT.COM

               57,358,285

1.1%

-0.1%

50

50

51

Mayo Clinic MAYOCLINIC.COM

               10,746,954

0.8%

0.0%

51

51

50

eHow (Demand Media) EHOW.COM

               54,128,475

0.7%

0.0%

The publishers included in the Media Industry Social Leaderboard are the top 50, as ranked by comScore-reported uniques, whose primary business is web publishing.  Once they are selected, data from Compete.com is used to estimate the amount of traffic referred to each by Facebook and Twitter.