Guardian and Washington Post suffer dramatic decline as users desert Facebook apps

It was only a few months ago that frictionless sharing was being talked about as the future of social media. It followed Facebook’s launch in September of what it called a “new breed of apps” that displayed video, music and news alongside its new timeline profile feature.

While initial results from the likes of The Guardian, The Independent and The Washington Post were very positive, with millions signing up for these Facebook social apps, that trend has now gone into steep reverse indicating the problem of over-sharing.

People appeared to have reached saturation points suggesting that people can quickly tire of these always on apps.

At the end of last year the Guardian said its app had reached more than four million users and was generating almost a million extra page impressions per day. That figure had reached 5 million by January.

However, according to a post on Buzzfeed both the Guardian and The Washington Post, which also gained millions of users in a few short months, are losing that Facebook audience and losing it fast.

The Post is said to have added more than 17 million frictionless app users, but it has seen that number almost halve.

The news is no better for The Guardian, which recently spoke about “a seismic shift in our referral traffic” as for the first time in its history “Facebook drove more traffic to than Google for a number of days. Social traffic accounted for more than 30% of our referrer traffic”.

It said that the “dramatic result” came from a standing start five months ago — or when Facebook launched its new apps. It added that social traffic had since dipped below search, indicating that the change in attitudes to these social apps was starting to come through (the Guardian post was written seven weeks ago).

The data from says that the fall off at the Guardian has been just as severe as the Post:

Below you can see the Appdata chart detailing the numbers of users all of the leading Facebook apps are shedding.

  • Chris Owen

    looking at the steep decline, it is eerily reminscent of the numbers of people playing Draw Something each day – a similar decline which has caused people to speculate Zynga payed well over the odds.

    the true test of success is no longer numbers but longevity – the ‘always on’ generation is in danger of turning into a generation of ADHD sufferers; amazed and delighted one minute, bored and playing with another toy the next.

  • Dan Thornton

    I posted about the frictionless sharing apps at the end of last year when they were launching, along with several others.

    The problem is that they might be ‘frictionless’ for the user, but they’re not sharing (they’re just a broadcast), and they create friction for the recipient – if by some miracle I actually spot something I want to read, suddenly it means I have an extra step before visiting the newspaper site as I try and either cancel the App request or just copy and paste the headline into search to avoid it…

    It just misses the whole point of social sharing, which is the ability to share relevant stuff with the right people.

  • Polly Becker

    Yes it does seem that these apps appeal to us for a while and then we get seriously bored by their “always on” nature.

    I find them really irritating and have dumped the Guradian app — its too much.

  • Kevin Heery

    This isn’t necessarily a problem depending on the business objectives of the project. For the Guardian, I’m pretty sure anyone who allows permissions to their FB app, is automatically signed up to their database and CRM program. So if driving up their user database was the objective, then its been a huge success.

    Once they have them in their database, would their objective be to drive them back to their Facebook app? Or would it be to target them with communications that drive them back to their main site?…where I’d assume the advertising CPMs are higher because advertisers would prefer their Guardian ad buy to appear in context on the Guardian website? Or would it be to drive them to paid for products such as their mobile apps or print subscriptions, or target them with relevant classified advertising based on their Facebook profile?

    I promise I don’t work for the Guardian so I have no idea, but there are much better ways to make money from a user database than to send them to your Facebook app – so maybe the Facebook app was a data acquisition driver, rather than a social engagement driver.

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  • @gordonmacmillan

    Dan’s right it is broadcast and misses the point. As for the objective for the Guardian surely to drive engagement and traffic. I signed up at the start for the Guardian app, but turned it off as it is too much. The Guardian doesn’t have any details or even my name as Facebook doesn’t give you those.

    I’m not sure these are much more than experiments and they are experiments that need to be refined. Not many people want the continual broadcast option (clearly) so it needs variations, different kinds of apps for different parts of the market.

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