What kind of impact has NPR faced on its referral traffic after leaving X?
It is likely not a great signal for the evolving X project of Elon Musk in April. NPR and PBS announced they would stop using Twitter to connect with their respective audiences.
It is due to X’s decision to add a “Government-funded media” tag to their accounts.
Both publishers viewed this as an attempt to discredit their reporting and sow distrust in traditional media, so rather than continue to participate under those conditions, they opted to abandon the platform and give more priority to other outlets.
It is a risky move, given that X plays a key role in news dissemination online. This is particularly true among journalists, with several reporters using X to stay updated on breaking news.
Original reporting can often benefit from the referral traffic and amplification that X can bring.
However, the impact is not that significant. According to a new report from Nieman Lab, NPR has not seen any significant effects due to dropping its X’s presence.
What does NL say about it?
A memo circulated to NPR staff says traffic had dropped by only a percentage point due to leaving X. However, traffic from the platform was small already and accounted for just under two percent of traffic before the posting stopped.
It is true for most publishers that X or Twitter has never been a great source of referral traffic. But the fact that NPR had over 8.7 million followers in the app.
It was able to leave with such minor consequences in this respect, which will no doubt raise the eyebrows of many other publications.
Though, there is likely more to it.
Did X/Twitter ever become a key driver of referral traffic for most websites?
As noted, X/Twitter has never been a key driver of referral traffic for most of the websites. Digiday reported back in January that referrals from the app dipped by another 20% on average in 2022.
Yet, despite this, the platform’s influence is still significant in terms of broader exposure and connection to key trends.
For example, many news hounds stay updated on X, then re-distribute that information to other platforms or use it in their reporting.
In this sense, X may be more influential than the raw numbers suggest.
What other interesting observation NPR has made about it?
NPR also made another interesting observation.
Meanwhile, NPR is experimenting with Threads, where NPR is among the most-followed news accounts.
Threads deliver about 63,000 site visits a week, about 39% of what Twitter has provided.
Threads, which is just three months old and has around 25% of current active users of X, is already driving almost half the amount of referral traffic that X was for NPR.
If this goes well for rivals of X, then NPR is still largely in development and missing several features that have kept users attached to X instead.
Again, these types of insights will get more publishers’ eyes wandering, especially as Elon continues to attack “mainstream media” outlets to discredit their reporting and refer users to the sources he prefers.
It is seemingly the main impetus for Musk’s attacks, in taking on outlets that have reported negative things about him or his companies by criticizing all of their coverage and tarring their name among his millions of fans.
Indeed, in recent months, Musk has criticized The New York Times, Reuters, The Guardian, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, and Rolling Stone, among others.
And these are just the most recent examples. Essentially, anyone who reports anything that Musk dislikes or agrees with gets put into his “fake news” bucket, which he routinely airs out via his X posts.
It is pushing more publications and journalists away from X. However, several hesitate to leave the platform lest they become more disconnected from the latest trending news stories and coverage.
X is embedded into the distribution process for most publications, and it would be a big shift for them to step away entirely. But more are indeed considering it.
The NPR example could be a key push that some need. As X is becoming a bigger source of misinformation, as it amplifies paying users over all others, it is increasingly losing its value as the key trend source.
If Threads can provide even half the traffic, it will get publishers thinking, which could become a big problem for Elon Musk’s app.
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