Social Media Dominated Referrals for Year's Top Stories

Social media contributed a larger volume of referrals than search for most of the year’s top news stories, according to publishing analytics outfit, which tracked online traffic for seven of the most talked about current events in 2015. Social media platforms were responsible for more referrals than search engines for five out of seven of the year’s biggest stories, found.

For news about the Charlie Hebdo massacre (the analysis was completed before the more recent terrorist attacks in Paris) social media contributed 17% of all traffic, compared to 11% for search. Similarly, for news about the untimely passing of Bobbi Kristina Brown, social contributed 26% of all traffic, compared to 22% for search.

The numbers were even more skewed towards social for stories about trans-racial pioneer Rachel Dolezal, with 21% for social versus 8% for search; Ahmed Mohamed, the teenager arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, with 26% for social versus 10% for search; and the demise of Cecil the Lion at the hands of a dentist, with 27% for social versus 10% for search.

Out of the seven top stories analyzed by, only two -- the Ashley Madison hack and the non-event that was the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight -- saw more traffic referred by search than social (28% to 15%, and 31% to 16%, respectively).

As noted in a previous blog, back in July released data showing that Facebook passed Google in referral traffic to publishers in June, with Facebook claiming a 38.2% share of referral traffic, compared to 35.2% for Google. The findings were based on’s analysis of referral traffic to hundreds of clients, including Condé Nast, Mashable, Fox News, The Atlantic and Reuters.

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