Monday, March 22, 2010

Facebook News Readers More Loyal Than Googlers

First, Facebook dethroned Google as the most trafficked web site in the United States, and now the social networking community has proven to have an extremely loyal following among news readers, potentially threatening the dominant position held by Google News. So says a recent Hitwise survey.

"A few weeks ago when I posted my blog entry about Facebook being the largest news reader, I received a few comments and emails noting that visitors aren't as valuable if they don't come back," said Heather Hopkins, a senior online market analyst for Hitwise. "Advertisers and retailers need some assurance that visitors will return again and again."

Loyal Facebook Users

Well, Hitwise data might provide that assurance. Hopkins' latest revelation shows that visitors from are more loyal to news and media web sites than visitors from Google News.

Hopkins points to a specific example she discovered based on Hitwise data: Among the top five print media web sites for the week ending March 6, 2010, 78 percent of Facebook users returned to that site to consume more news, versus only 67 percent of Google News users making return visits.

How does that compare to broadcast media? The numbers are fairly similar. Hitwise shows that 77 percent Facebook users return to broadcast news sites compared to a 64 percent repeat-visitor rate for Google News users.
Getting more granular, Hitwise data show 81 percent of visits to in the week of March 6, 2010 were returning visitors. While 84 percent of visitors to that came from were returning visitors, only 72 percent from Google News were returning.

"I've been encouraged by some readers to include in this series. In most cases, is the number one source of traffic to these sites. Interestingly, visitors from Google are less likely to be returning visitors than average for either Google News or Facebook," Hopkins said. "This reinforces the long term value to News and Media organizations of working with the likes of Google News and Facebook."

Media Focus on Facebook

With recent Pew Research showing that newspapers have seen ad revenue fall 26 percent during the year and 43 percent over the past three years, Hopkins said, understanding where to find loyal readers is becoming increasingly important. What does this mean for the media? Given this information and the Hitwise data about Facebook's traffic dominance, perhaps a greater focus on Facebook.
For the first time, U.S. visits to Facebook exceeded those to the former top site, Google earlier this month. While the difference was relatively small for the week ending March 13 -- 7.07 percent of all visits for Facebook, compared to 7.03 percent for Google -- the trend could point to the growing strength of the social Internet.

One social platform Hopkins didn't mention is Twitter. Twitter has been making its push onto the broader web and announced its @anywhere service last week. The service gives sites like, AdAge, Bing, Citysearch, eBay, The Huffington Post, Meebo, MSNBC, The New York Times, Yahoo and YouTube the ability to stream the millions of daily tweets Twitter users send every day.

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