Digiday+ Research deep dive: Are publishers cooling on Facebook?

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Publishers’ relationships with the growing number of social media platforms have been somewhat fraught over the years — just look at publishers’ referral traffic from X (or lack thereof) or their uncertain navigation of Meta’s Threads. But publishers still have to work with these platforms, at least to some extent.

Digiday+ Research surveyed around 200 publisher professionals in 2021, 2022 and 2023 to find out how they are using different social media platforms and how that usage has changed over the last two years. In this first deep dive into the topic, we look at how publishers are using Facebook.

To start off, Digiday’s survey found that publishers are potentially cooling on Facebook. Their use of the platform has actually fallen since last year. Ninety-one percent of publisher pros said this year that their titles posted content to Facebook in the last month. This is admittedly a high percentage, but it’s down from the 99% who said the same last year and even the 95% who said they posted to Facebook in 2021.

The frequency with which publishers are posting content on Facebook supports their potential cooling on the platform. This is because the percentage of publisher pros who told Digiday they post on Facebook every day has been trending downward since 2021 (albeit only very slightly between last year and this year).

In 2021, 85% of publishers said they posted content on Facebook every day. That percentage fell to just under three-quarters last year (74%) and then held fairly steady at 73% this year.

Meanwhile, the percentage of publishers who post on Facebook at least once a week has increased over the last two years. In 2021, just 13% of publisher pros said they posted on the platform at least once a week. That percentage jumped to nearly a quarter last year (24%) and held at 23% this year.

This could indicate that Facebook’s losing favor with publishers includes decreasing posting frequency from every day to just once or a few times a week.

Just as publishers possibly pull back on their participation on Facebook, Digiday’s survey found that their investment in original content on the platform saw a drop from last year to this year.

In fact, nearly a third of publisher pros (32%) said they don’t invest at all in creating original content for Facebook, up slightly from the 30% who said the same last year and the 26% who said so the year before. The same percentage (32%) said they invest only a little in creating original content for Facebook — a jump from the 23% who said the same last year.

Meanwhile, fewer publishers said they spend a lot on original content for Facebook. Just 14% said this year that they invest a lot in creating original content for the platform, compared with 26% who said so last year.

This year’s 14% is much more in line with 2021, when 16% of publisher pros told Digiday they spent a lot on original content for Facebook. This could potentially point to publishers upping their investment in content for the platform and then finding that the investment didn’t pay off.

While publishers aren’t necessarily investing a lot in creating original content for Facebook, Digiday’s survey did find that most publishers are buying advertising on the platform.

Seventy-three percent of publisher pros told Digiday this year that their titles purchased advertising on Facebook in the last month. That’s on par with the 75% who said so last year (the first time the question was asked).

So, while Digiday’s survey results could indicate that publishers’ investment in original content for Facebook might not have panned out, they also show that Facebook advertising proved to be something publishers were willing to invest in again this year.

Despite the data that supports that publishers are cooling on Facebook, Digiday’s survey found that the vast majority of publishers actually said the platform is valuable to driving their revenues.

Eighty-two percent of publisher pros told Digiday this year that Facebook is at least somewhat valuable to driving their revenues, up significantly from the 69% who said so last year and a rebound beyond even the 76% who said so two years ago.

And looking at the data more closely, one-third of publisher pros (33%) said this year that Facebook is valuable to driving their revenues, up from one-quarter (25%) last year, and 19% said this year that the platform is extremely valuable to driving their revenues, up from 13% last year. Meanwhile, the percentage of publisher pros who said Facebook is not very valuable to driving revenues fell from 20% last year to just 7% this year.

It turns out that publishers also find that Facebook is valuable for their branding efforts — a sentiment that has remained steady for the last two years. Eighty-five percent of publisher pros told Digiday this year that the platform is at least somewhat valuable for branding (87% said the same last year and 87% said so the year before).

And the percentage of publisher pros who said Facebook is extremely valuable for branding is trending upward. More than one-third of publisher pros (35%) said this year that the platform is extremely valuable to their branding, up from one-quarter (25%) in 2022 and up even more from 19% in 2021.

It is worth noting that the percentage of publishers who said Facebook is valuable for branding (as opposed to extremely or somewhat valuable) is down quite a bit from last year, though. This year, just over a quarter of publisher pros (27%) said Facebook is valuable for branding, compared with 41% last year and 38% the year before.

Overall, Digiday’s survey found that all publishers still think that Facebook is at least a little brand-appropriate for their titles. Not one respondent to this year’s survey said the platform is not appropriate at all for their brand, which was also the case last year.

However, the percentage of publishers who said Facebook is at least somewhat brand-appropriate fell this year, while those who said it’s not very appropriate rose — taking us back to the idea that Facebook is, in fact, losing favor with publishers.

To be fair, most publishers do still consider Facebook to be brand-appropriate. Eighty-five percent of publisher pros told Digiday this year that the platform is at least somewhat brand-appropriate for their brand. But that percentage is a decrease from the 92% who said the same last year (the same percentage said so the year before).

At the same time, the percentage of publisher pros who said Facebook is not very appropriate for their brand saw a jump this year — from 8% in 2022 to 15% in 2023. And those who said the platform is appropriate for their brand (as opposed to extremely or somewhat appropriate) fell from 41% last year to just more than a third (35%) this year.

One year’s worth of a difference isn’t exactly enough to say for sure that publishers are officially cooling on Facebook, but it will certainly be worth watching the numbers to see what happens in the coming years.

https://digiday.com/?p=516356

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