Axios is blaming a drop in traffic for publishers — particularly news publishers that are open about their partisan slant — on a “boring news cycle,” but the decline also follows Facebook’s decision to reduce the amount of political content in users’ news feeds.
As noted by Axios, conservative publishers were disproportionately affected:
Web traffic, social media engagement and app user sessions suggest that while the entire news industry is experiencing a slump, right-wing outlets are seeing some of the biggest plunges.
A group of far-right outlets, including Newsmax and The Federalist, saw aggregate traffic drop 44% from February through May compared to the previous six months, according to Comscore data.
Lefty outlets including Mother Jones and Raw Story saw a 27% drop.
Mainstream publishers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Reuters dropped 18%.
But while Axios blames the decline on a “boring political news cycle,” there may be another explanation. In February, Facebook announced it was testing a new algorithm that would temporarily reduce the visibility of politics in users’ news feeds, and use that to design permanent changes to the platform going forward.
As Breitbart News reported at the time:
Forbes reports that Facebook revealed on Wednesday that it plans to temporarily reduce the visibility of political content for a small percentage of users in Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, and the United States. The company has faced increased scrutiny over its moderation abilities in recent months with many claiming that the site is failing to crack down on misinformation and “hateful content.”
In a blog post, Facebook stated:
“Over the next few months, we’ll work to better understand peoples’ varied preferences for political content and test a number of approaches based on those insights. As a first step, we’ll temporarily reduce the distribution of political content in News Feed for a small percentage of people in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia this week, and the US in the coming weeks. During these initial tests we’ll explore a variety of ways to rank political content in people’s feeds using different signals, and then decide on the approaches we’ll use going forward. COVID-19 information from authoritative health organizations like the CDC and WHO, as well as national and regional health agencies and services from affected countries, will be exempt from these tests. Content from official government agencies and services will also be exempt.”
It is possible that Facebook isn’t responsible. Axios notes that usage of news apps is also down, but that could also be a follow-on effect of Facebook’s algorithm adjustment.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.