New research: Facebook Friends? The Impact of Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm Changes on Nonprofit Publishers

Emily Roseman
Oct 29, 2018 · 2 min read

Hello there! Last week, the at the published a new paper on the impact of Facebook’s News Feed change on the referral traffic for our cohort of single subject, nonprofit newsrooms.

We started analyzing our cohort’s referral traffic changes back in February, after hearing concern from several newsrooms that Facebook’s news feed change in January would negatively impact their audience growth.

Our data scientist, Aisha Townes, tracked the referral traffic from Facebook for our cohort for the three months before and after the change. Then our Research Fellow, Andrew Gruen, wrote a fantastic analysis of the data this past summer. Here are the major takeaways from Andrew:

  • “Of the eight publishers [in the cohort], three saw significant (greater than 20 percent) declines in Facebook referrals. Two were down slightly; two were up slightly. And one saw significant gains, up more than 40 percent in both users and sessions.”
  • “Bottom line: The decline in referrals to publishers from Facebook is not universal, and in the face of those declines, other sources of traffic are more important than ever.”

Andrew’s write-up for :

The full paper can be found on the site:


Any questions or comments on this research or the Single Subject News Project? Please feel free to reach out: Emily_Roseman@hks.harvard.edu

The Single Subject News Project

A research project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. We study how nonprofit, single subject news sites can engage, grow and monetize their online audiences.

Emily Roseman

Written by

Research Project Manager for the Single Subject News Project at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

The Single Subject News Project

A research project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. We study how nonprofit, single subject news sites can engage, grow and monetize their online audiences.