Yesterday, as Mark Zuckerberg headed to his first Senate hearing where he was grilled about Facebook’s data leak and vowed to “do better,” one publication took action to steel itself against lost traffic, following the social media platform’s algorithm change in January of this year.
Raw Story, a progressive news website founded by John Byrne in 2004, bought leftist news site AlterNet for an undisclosed amount from parent company the Independent Media Institute.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Raw Story, which averages 6 million monthly unique users, saw its web traffic significantly decline after Facebook demoted content from publishers in favor of community posts.
AlterNet, which averages 2 million viewers a month, saw a less drastic decline in its traffic following the change, inspiring Byrne to add it to Raw Story’s roster, where he hopes to drive traffic from AlterNet to its declining audience.
After Facebook’s algorithm change, sites Little Things and Rare both closed, as did Render Media, citing a decline in traffic. The move by Raw Story is interesting — it seems like a defensive strategy.
By acquiring a website with a sturdy traffic model and dedicated following, Byrne and Raw Story are perhaps acknowledging that their social-media model is obsolete and, like those shuttered sites, have put too much stock in traffic originating from social platforms.
In a post at AlterNet called “It’s a New Day for AlterNet,” Byrne outlined the transition for readers, stating: “What’s not going to change is AlterNet’s commitment to long-form progressive journalism and commentary. We will add more original content, but we won’t transform AlterNet into Raw Story. Our intent in creating a separate company for AlterNet is to ensure AlterNet remains true to its roots.”
According to Byrne’s post, AlterNet will continue to carry content from the Independent Media Institute and soon undertake a homepage redesign.
The move follows the December departure of former AlterNet executive director Don Hazen, who was accused of sexually harassing female employees, most notably chronicled in an NPR "This American Life" episode.