Digital Publishing
2 mins read

“The internet comes alive”: Publishers’ traffic spikes when platforms go down

Platforms like Facebook and YouTube are a major source of publisher traffic and audience engagement; yet recently, when these platforms experienced some outages, publishers witnessed a significant growth in direct traffic to their own sites and apps.

Chartbeat, the content intelligence platform for publishers, has been monitoring the effect of platform outages on publisher traffic, and they noticed an interesting correlation.

The results were surprising, Chartbeat noted. “Internet behaviors shifted immediately and fiercely with a huge boost to traffic overall, with some of the largest increases seen on app and search traffic.”

“The one thing we do see is that when Facebook or YouTube goes dark, the rest of the internet comes alive,” said Su Hang, Data Scientist at Chartbeat.

The one thing we do see is that when Facebook or YouTube goes dark, the rest of the internet comes alive.

Last week, when YouTube went down for about an hour, the outage resulted in a 20% net increase in traffic to publisher sites.

Chartbeat analyzed the YouTube outage using global traffic data across a sample of more than 4,000 sites, and found huge surges in Search and App Traffic.

“We saw a 59% increase in search traffic,” said Su. “We saw app and Google AMP traffic seeing the largest surges, with 78% and 67% lifts respectively. We also saw boosts across desktop, but mobile and tablet saw even larger increases.”

Earlier, when Facebook went down for 45 minutes, traffic patterns across the web changed in an instant. According to Chartbeat’s data, people went directly to publishers’ mobile apps and sites (as well as to search engines) to get their information fix.

Chartbeat analyzed the Facebook outage using global traffic data, and presented a summary at happened. Key data points show that when Facebook went down, referrals to news sites fell as expected, but other activity surged significantly.

According to Chartbeat,

  • Direct traffic to publishers’ websites increased 11%, while traffic to publishers’ mobile apps soared 22%.
  • Search referral traffic to publishers was also up 8%.
  • Surprisingly, there was a net new total traffic increase of 2.3%, meaning that the number of pages consumed across the web spiked upward in this timeframe.

“One of the fascinating things we noticed in the data was just how
instantaneous the reaction was: when Facebook went down, it took only seconds to break the habit,” said Josh Schwartz, Chief of Product, Engineering and Data Science at Chartbeat.

“Habitual Facebook usage is so intertwined with mobile usage, however, that it is hard to say what would really happen in a Facebook-absent world.”

Consumers still seek out the stories they want, and this is good news for publishers.

“Facebook drives a tremendous amount of traffic to publishers, but at the same time, it also competes in terms of consumer time and attention.

It is heartening to see that when Facebook is temporarily out of the picture, consumers still seek out the stories they want—and this is good news for publishers,” Josh concluded.