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Traffic referrals to news sites from Facebook have "gained significant ground at the expense of Google" since the social networking platform changed its algorithm towards the end of last year, according to a study.

Page views from Facebook increased to 26 per cent in January 2014 up from 16 per cent in October 2013, according to the latest 'authority report' from analytics platform Parse.ly.

Meanwhile traffic from Google sites, including Google News and Google+, remained top, but fell to 38 per cent in January 2014 from 44 per cent in October the previous year.

"This data is in line with what other outlets have reported on how changes in the Facebook algorithm has affected traffic to news websites," stated the report.

Parse.ly examined data from 8 billion page views and around 200 news sites, which were largely US-based. Sites which do not structure their data in the same way as other sites, for example, by not including author names or bylines, and sites which were "pure aggregator or RSS websites", were excluded from the 'news sites' category.

Parse.ly
Top 25 traffic sources for January 2013, according to the Parse.ly report

The report also showed that during January 2014, other 'news sites', followed by Twitter and then Yahoo were the third, fourth and fifth biggest traffic referrals, although Parse.ly highlighted that Yahoo's shift to "secure search" may impact on this, as explained in a Parse.ly blog post.

When grouped together, social media now drives more traffic than search within Parse.ly's network, with 32 per cent of referrals from social compared to 30 per cent from search. In the previous Parse.ly report for October 2013, search generated 36 per cent of referrals compared to 22 per cent from social.

(Google generated more referrals overall, but the category report separates Google search engine data from other Google properties, resulting in the lower percentage figure given.)

The report, entitled How efficient is the news? also showed that although sites with higher traffic have more reporters and, on average, publish more posts, this does not necessarily lead to more page views per story.

"Going past the 1 million page views per day mark means producing 2.44 times more total site content [than sites recording less than 1 million daily page views], but it only results in 1.3 times more page views per post," stated the report.

Across all sites using Parse.ly, the average number of posts published per day was 29, with 4,137 average daily page views per post.

Sports journalists received the highest average daily page views per author compared to those reporting on subjects such as entertainment or technology, which the report suggested "may be [due to] a combination of factors, like people’s deep attachment to their sports teams, or the fact that sports highlight stories can be written quickly and still garner high attention".

The report also showed that journalists on websites with more than 1 million daily page views produced almost twice as many posts per day than their counterparts on smaller sites.

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