When Facebook goes down, people go read the news

Where would you go?
Where would you go?
Image: Reuters/Hannah McKay
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What happens when internet users can’t go on Facebook? Some turn to other social media platforms to joke about it. A lot of them, it turns out, spend that time reading the news.

When Facebook experienced a 45-minute outage on Aug. 3 in many parts of the world, traffic to news websites sharply spiked, according to a data from Chartbeat, a firm used by many major news publishers to track traffic to their websites.

Chartbeat presented this data during the Online News Association conference last week, and it told Quartz it’s based on traffic to 4,000 websites in dozens of countries, with many of them in the US and UK. (The websites are Chartbeat clients.)

From the data, it appears that once Facebook went down, internet users went directly to news websites (for example, nytimes.com), or they searched for news (of any kind, including entertainment and sports) through Google or other search engines to replace their Facebook browsing fix.

In the past two years, Facebook has made several moves to downgrade the importance of news content on its platform, focusing instead on users’ interactions between family and friends. This hit news publishers hard, since they depend on traffic for advertising revenue. According to Chartbeat, traffic from Facebook to news publishers’ websites has fallen by 40% since January 2017.

Perhaps publishers will hope Facebook goes down more often in the future.