Can online news survive without social traffic?

Social networks are a significant source of traffic for most news publishers. No surprise so far… after all, there isn’t a news article, blog post or picture on the internet without the mandatory ‘sharing’ buttons next to them.

We’re obsessed with sharing cool stuff with our friends, fans and followers to the extent that websites like thrive with their ability to create content that is amusing, funny or shocking enough to trigger social shares and ‘buzz’. A whooping 50% of their site traffic comes from links on social networks, making it arguably one of the most social publishers on the internet.

But are people as keen to share other types of content (i.e. not funny)? And are there specific news that generate more attention across social networks? We wanted to explore this and find out how much do today’s biggest news sites depend on traffic coming from social networks.

Using SimilarWeb, we analyzed 12 of the biggest news sites that cover world news, technology, gadgets and gossip.

Below is a chart showing the percentage of traffic that each site receives from social networks.

social-networks (1)

Data: March-May 2013


Gadget sites Gizmodo and The Verge lead the pack with over 20% of their traffic coming from social networks. Technology blog Mashable is also a key player when it comes to social virality, although some of its critics would say that it’s not as tech-oriented as it used to be and it’s now more focused on ‘cool stuff to generate buzz’ like Buzzfeed does.

To our surprise, gossip blogs are not as social as we expected. It is true that when a controversial celebrity snap hits the web it spreads like wild fire. However, people might not be as interested to read the full story…

Finally, news sites such as CNN Fox and NY Times don’t depend as much on social traffic. They are big established brands people go to instinctively. Of course Social traffic is important for them, specially for NY Times but CNN and FOX seem to be less reliant on social as they can use their mighty force as TV broadcasters to drive audiences to their respective websites.

We grouped the sites analyzed by industry to get a better idea of the average share of social traffic going to their sites. Techies rule when it comes to social sharing and old media has some catching up to do.


social-industries (1)

Data: March-May 2013


The next thing we wanted to investigate was the breakdown of which social networks are more important for each  publisher category. The graph below shows the percentage of social traffic from Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and ‘Other’ networks by category.


networks-perfomance (1)

Data: March-May 2013

Facebook is the biggest when it comes to news & gossip, but not necessarily the best way to spread technology and gadget news.

Twitter is bigger for gossip than for any of the other publications.

When it comes to gadgets, Reddit is the place to go.

Obviously, geeks and techies are always on the quest to find new social networks and platforms so it will be hard catching up with them. Over 40% of social traffic to tech and gadget blogs are made up of StumbleUpon and a lot of  less-mainstream social networks which we see as ‘Other’.

I hope these insights help you decide social platform is more relevant your target audience and let us any comments below or via Facebook and Twitter.


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