Facebook Down? Traditional Publishers Up

What the Facebook Outage Teaches Us About Today’s Online Media Landscape

What happened

  • Yesterday Facebook was offline for 6 hours.
  • There was much speculation around what caused the outage. According to Cloudflare it came down to a likely human error and a faulty code update that locked Facebook out of its own data centers. 
  • This event exposed some tangible new data about how online attention flows between social media and other media properties.

Independent publishers saw up to a 70% traffic increase during the outage

  • News of the outage immediately made the rounds on other social media sites, ranging from real-time updates of the event to memes about a post-Facebook world.
  • Outbrain engineers noticed a significant surge in traffic on some of our publisher partners. Outbrain was the first to report a global 40% traffic increase on traditional publishers. In reality, it was far more than that. 
  • Consumers flooded to the sources they trust for news and entertainment when left without Facebook as their primary option. This shows how effective Facebook is at keeping consumers within its walled garden.

Two types of publishers in a modern online world

  • Some publishers rely heavily on social referral traffic. Their business model is built on drawing users to click on headlines from social media, and then keeping them on their respective sites as long as possible. This type of publishing didn’t do well yesterday, such traffic was cut in half during the outage.
  • On the other side of the coin, traditional marquee publishers in every market globally saw a large traffic increase. Some saw up to 70% increase in visits
  • Large publishers got the highest rate of new visits and attention. Less established publishers saw a smaller change on average. This indicates publisher brand matters more than ever. Establishing direct relationships with users remains the most valuable currency.
  • These trends remained consistent across global markets, and devices (desktop and mobile). Here are the traffic surges we saw in different countries:
  • As Facebook came back online, the traffic went back to the previous levels. The long term effect of Facebook’s outage on the traffic patterns seems minimal.


  • We believe that this event showed us how fluid online attention is. A large part of what users do on Facebook is discover content. 
  • Consumers keep the CNNs of the world top-of-mind as trusted sources in a crisis.
  • Publishers need to find ways to capitalize on their readership – taking tactics from Facebook to keep consumers on their own feeds, constantly engaging with content and topics tailored to their interests. 
  • Instead of offering one “mono” experience to consume information, publishers should learn from this event that the audience is there — it’s up to the world’s publishers to continue to engage audiences in new ways.
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