Mainstream publications like The Atlantic, or The New York Times, or even digitally native publications like Vox and Buzzfeed, don’t get much traffic from Twitter. Extrapolating from third-party tools, Twitter drives around 3% of overall traffic for publications. The traffic is variable; here are 15 examples using data for March of 2023.
- Traffic from Twitter 2.45% – nbcnews.com
- Traffic from Twitter 3.77% – theatlantic.com
- Traffic from Twitter 1.87% – nytimes.com
- Traffic from Twitter 0.28% – bustle.com
- Traffic from Twitter 2.60% – vox.com
- Traffic from Twitter 1.22% – buzzfeed.com
- Traffic from Twitter 1.60% – gizmodo.com
- Traffic from Twitter 2.70% – futurism.com
- Traffic from Twitter 3.51% – vanityfair.com
- Traffic from Twitter 5.42% – variety.com
- Traffic from Twitter 4.88% – thedailybeast.com
- Traffic from Twitter 0.03% – healthline.com
- Traffic from Twitter 0.27% – cosmopolitan.com
- Traffic from Twitter 4.08% – bloomberg.com
- Traffic from Twitter 1.49% – businessinsider.com
These numbers are approximately consistent across any batch of 15 publications. If using the same method to establish the Twitter traffic for the 15 media sites anyone most recently visited, I’d expect a similar spread where only entertainment or crypto news cracks 5% of total traffic from Twitter.
Let’s Talk NPR
I bring this up because NPR yesterday announced that the organization will no longer use Twitter. NPR.org seemingly receives about 1.68% of it’s traffic from Twitter. At the time of writing NPR has four of the top 100 podcasts on Apple Podcasts based on new subscribers weighted for recency. Other methods for calculation of popularity put NPR’s myriad of podcasts at over 20 million collective monthly listeners.
In broadcast across all member stations NPR reaches 23.5M listeners each week according to a sponsorship sales page. NPR doesn’t need to be on Twitter. Most media companies, in fact don’t need Twitter. In 2018 Fox News started a 16 month Twitter boycott.
Between March 24-31 NPR with it’s 8.8 million Twitter followers, posted about 260 Tweets, receiving approximately 36,400,000 impressions on Twitter. Assigning NPR a 1.5% click-through rate (CTR), an estimation that is probably 3X the CTR for an account that size, NPR’s main Twitter drove 546,000 clicks to NPR.org that week. Over the month lets say the main NPR Twitter account sent at most 2.18 million clicks to NPR.org.
Over that same month, NPR.org received an estimated 111.5 million visits. About 1.6% of those visitors came from Twitter amounting to 18.73 million. NPR’s main Twitter account with nearly 9 million followers only drove about 11% of NPR.org’s traffic from Twitter. Put another way, NPR’s main Twitter account likely drove a max of 0.176% of total traffic to NPR.org in March 2023.
NPR has at least a dozen other Twitter accounts, but so far as I can tell the main @NPR account is 3x larger than the next largest account. Save for @nprpolitics, and @NPRHealth, the other NPR accounts’ all have under 1 million followers. Many accounts have under 10,000 followers. Given that the starting CTR estimation is very high, it’s likely that even with several dozen accounts NPR’s managed Twitter properties drive under 13% of the relatively minimal Twitter traffic sent to NPR.org.
The other 87% of NPR.org’s traffic from Twitter comes when others share links. Some of those people undoubtedly work for NPR. Mary Childs, Peter Sagal, Ayesha Rascoe and many other NPR staff are known to Tweet links to NPR.org from time to time. But that isn’t the majority of the traffic.
Twitter recently ended the ability to check share counts. Push ROI (and many others) lost meaningful API access, and Twitter search is broken. But using Boolean search modifiers on Duck Duck Go, allowed for verification that the last eight articles published to NPR.org are shared on Twitter by people and organizations unrelated to NPR.
Those shares to a few dozen up to a few million followers, are driving most of NPR.org’s Twitter traffic. Not to put too fine a point on it, but NPR leaving Twitter represents a loss of at most 2.32 million monthly site visits, and likely closer to 700,000.
In an unimaginably shortsighted move Twitter throttled links to Substack for a period of time last week. For many writers on the newsletter system that is Substack (including myself) Twitter is a major traffic source.
I’d bet not one of these examples is sending 700,000 clicks from Twitter to their Substack. For
Since March 31, my @masonpelt Twitter account is sitting somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep. The profile stands publicly nameless, and without a profile pic, but for some reason with a legacy blue check. Twitter hasn’t told me the account is suspended but has locked me out of it, and I’ve missed a distribution of around 300 clicks to various articles per week.
A loss of 1,200 clicks a month is bigger to me than the loss of 18.73 million is to NPR. But driving 1,200 clicks a month from other sourcesis eminently doable, probably with less time than I spent on Twitter. But Twitter’s Substack ban screwed over a lot of writers, and probably hurt Twitter more than it hurt Substack.
The realization I had, that I’d given Twitter too much power over distribution, seemingly hit many other writers. The ecosystem that is Twitter had classes of users. I’ve made the case that Twitter’s product decisions should consider Steven King as a primary user group.
King has almost no reason to use Twitter. However the unfiltered use of the platform by celebrities like King are a reason many from the masses to the media types use it. Brands, government agencies, and advertisers only use Twitter to reach the user base.
Disrupt the value of any group of Twitter users enough, and it impacts the other groups. If a bunch of writers leave, at least a few people will follow. If enough people follow, the local police department probably stops announcing things on Twitter, and suddenly local media use the tool less. Without local media politicians will find a lot less value in Twitter.
Twitter is a Jenga tower of interdependent users segments. But many of those segments, like NPR and most other large media outfits have little need of Twitter. When even users who have a clear reason to use Twitter find their blocks suddenly destabilized the platform is less appealing. Elon Musk makes decisions like a toddler in need of a nap so everyone but @Catturd2 and cohort is starting to find the value of the service slipping.