The Traffic Report for 2024

How publishers are navigating declining social and search traffic 

Regulatory headwinds and economic uncertainty have challenged publishers in recent years. But new obstacles threaten to undermine the audience development models publishers spent a decade fine-tuning. Specifically, dips in site traffic from social media and search results are forcing publishers to rethink how they attract—and keep—audiences. 

Social media platforms deprioritize news and other links, while  GenAI disrupts search traffic. Gartner predicts that by 2028, brands’ organic search traffic will decrease by 50% as consumers lean into AI-powered search. Meanwhile, social referral traffic from Twitter and Meta has steadily declined, by 10% to 18% month over month for some publishers. 

Regardless of new changes—and even sometimes because of them—-publishers still have ample opportunity to forge a sustainable path forward. Now is the time to evolve. 

We’ve outlined some changes reshaping web traffic and how publishers can respond to improve their results. 

The landscape

There’s never a dull moment in media publishing. Here’s a rundown of the events that have most impacted traffic in the last year. 

Twitter Moments pass

In Q3 2023, publishers noticed a decline in referral traffic, notably from X (formerly Twitter), nearly a full year after Elon Musk acquired the platform. Social traffic fell further when X phased out Twitter Moments in December. The Moments feature allowed users to tell a story beyond one tweet and highlight different perspectives, weaving together different conversations, tweets, live commentary, and reference articles. 

In the immediate aftermath of Moments’ removal, Automattic found that traffic from X fell across large and small publishers alike. In contrast, a subset of publishers analyzed experienced a 71% overall traffic decline. One news publisher told Digiday, “The big scary, existential question is, will social media continue to be a traffic source for organizations? Or will it become just a storytelling platform, or a marketing platform?” 

No news isn’t good news.

Over the last year, Meta-owned Facebook quietly made changes that drastically reduced referral traffic to media outlets—especially those that publish news. 

Some publishers reported a 30% to 40% drop in year-over-year traffic after Facebook moved away from news and social platforms and deprioritized links to outside sources; after all, it is in Facebook’s interest to keep users in the app. The platform once sent high traffic to publishers, leading many to build business models reliant on Facebook. Those models collapsed when Facebook stopped courting publishers. 

As governments become more serious about forcing tech companies to pay publishers for the content posted to their platforms, companies like Meta have threatened to pull publisher content altogether in countries that pass such legislation. And that’s not just talk: When Canada passed its law, Meta pulled news content from its country's platform. This offers proof that it is time for publishers to think beyond Facebook. 

GenAI disrupts search

Last summer, Google unveiled the beta version of its Search Generative Experience (SGE) technology, which uses AI to answer search queries on the results page. As the product expands, publishers must navigate major disruptions to organic search traffic, which is historically their largest source of readership

Set to be fully rolled out sometime this year, many anticipate publishers’ search traffic will decline from 20% to 80%. The interplay between Google and media companies is complex; they create commercial value for one another, so Google isn’t likely to completely abandon publishers, though it may be rethinking its revenue model. While antitrust issues may slow SGE from completely taking over, publishers must now prepare to mitigate the potential decline's effects. 

Drive consistent traffic 

Web traffic is the lifeblood of digital media publishers. In a fast-evolving landscape, finding sustainable strategies to drive it is critical. 

Build out direct channels 

Direct traffic is a direct outcome of good brand awareness and can indirectly measure the effect of your overall marketing and branding strategy. It is directly tied to email and SMS marketing and influencer marketing in audio (i.e., podcasts) and video (i.e., YouTube). 

Publishers can control this kind of content strategy, which allows them to gain a consumer’s undivided attention and guide it to specific products, services, and calls to action. 

Invest in content AI can’t replicate.

AI is good, but there are some things it can’t do. Google search engine results in pages, and AI cannibalizes top-of-the-funnel and clickbait-style how-to content for SGE results. Still, AI is much less effective for mid or bottom-funnel content, including in-depth articles and complicated queries. 

The best content comes from subject matter experts who rely on primary research and add nuance and color to a topic, with knowledge of the audience informing the structure. Investing in high-quality content can deliver search users to your page without being affected by AI. 

As New York University Linguistics and Data Science Professor Sam Bowman noted recently, AI still can’t write articles from start to finish: “Building systems that can go all the way from an abstract idea or a set of facts to a long-form coherent text is still quite difficult.” Publishers should lean into high-quality, thoughtful content to snag readers looking for analysis that requires more than a paragraph. 

Reduce friction

User-centricity can be a crucial differentiator for publishers. Although they have talked about user-centricity for some time, there is still considerable friction for many users accessing digital media. Whether it’s unnecessary delays or too many steps to access content, complexity detracts from time spent on site. 

Reducing friction can benefit publishers, readers, and advertisers alike. Users get to their tasks faster, publishers garner more attention, and advertisers see a bump in click-through rates. Advertising efficacy improves monetization rates for publishers and overall success. Publishers should assess how they can lift the value chain and measure the following traffic. 

Do more with better data 

Many publishers have historically focused on amassing as many data sets as possible, hoping to find meaningful insights. However, many need to catch up in connecting the dots across the data, determining the most valuable sets to monitor, and turning insights into action. 

High-quality first-party data is publishers' gold, and using it effectively matters. This data can be used to predict consumers' needs so publishers can more effectively deliver content via direct channels, engaging readers longer and creating affinities that sustain traffic. Naturally, this data can also be used to serve advertisers, creating less waste in ad spend while helping publishers achieve better returns on their inventory. 

Monetize your traffic

Boostr is the preeminent platform for media publishers when it comes to doing more with their data. Designed by former media executives for the media industry, Boostr allows publishers to effectively monetize their already existing traffic and quickly unlock insights that produce sustainable revenue. 

Start a conversation today about how Boostr can support your enterprise this year and beyond. 


Boostr is the only platform that seamlessly integrates CRM and OMS capabilities to address the unique challenges of media advertising. With boostr, companies gain the unified visibility necessary to effectively manage, maximize and scale omnichannel ad revenue profitability with user-friendly workflows, actionable insights, and accurate forecasting.

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