Almost no one cares whether your site is on social media

In March 2024, I ran an experiment in my Portuguese-written blog: I stopped distributing its content on social media (Mastodon, mostly) and messaging apps (Telegram and WhatsApp channels). It has a small following in a few places — ~2,9k on Telegram, ~450 on WhatsApp and three Mastodon profiles (two with autopost) that sums ~5k followers.

The result was that… little has changed.

The blog got ~107k unique visitors who viewed ~172k pages. Compared to the average of the previous six months, the March figures were 33.7% and 30.3% higher, respectively.

The reason for this increase, however, was an uncontrollable external player: Google. On March 27th, I posted a link in our readers forum of a Brazilian viral anonymous Google spreadsheet with reports of bad companies to work for. Google, for any inexplicable reason, put this link in front of many pairs of eyes, and almost 38k people arrived at my blog in the few days remaining in March.

(This created tragicomic situations, such as people posting anonymous reports of toxic companies in the comments of the blog and one that threatened to sue me if I didn’t take down the spreadsheet.)

Without this little crazy viral, the audience in March would have been 13.7% and 28.8% lower than the average of the previous six months. What makes more sense, but I don’t know if it’s fair to take viral out of the equation.

In February, for instance, Google aimed its cannon of people at a report I wrote about using Kindle without an Amazon account. Why? Who knows! In that month, this single text accounted for 27.7% of unique visitors and 18.5% of page views.

Like any authoritarian entity, Google punishes and graces without clear criteria. Today you get free traffic from a meaningless viral, tomorrow… Maybe my next experiment is to take my blog off the Google Search.


Social media, those I was absent from in March, give no web traffic at all — and that’s not news. Even for this reason I have unfolded my work in them in two ways: either by automating the distribution of the site’s content, or by replicating it in full. In both, I don’t have the expectation of increasing access/traffic to my blog.

There is a manifest unwillingness, in some cases, of social platforms with external websites and links. And it’s general. It’s rare for me to believe in something that comes out of the mouth of a big tech C-level, but Adam Mosseri, from Meta, is right regarding this: the headache that these companies get when supporting journalism does not compensate for the tiny return they have, because these companies don’t care about the subjectivity and nuances of complex or hard subjects and, in fact, they do not earn anything by sending users out of their domains.

If my operation depended on traffic, I would worry more about all these numbers and presence on social media. (And Google, on whom modern journalism is dependent and/or hostage, depending on how you face the situation.) That’s not my case.

And, because that’s not the case, raw numbers don’t tell the whole story of my March social media blackout. Some readers missed seeing updates on Mastodon, Telegram, even LinkedIn. Not that there is a lack of ways to follow what I post, but it’s that, like it or not, online life happens in these places and visiting sites directly, following them by RSS or even by the newsletter are practices out of fashion.


That said, how do we continue from now on? I don’t share the optimism of colleagues who participated in the last Reuters Institute annual survey of trends and predictions, that WhatsApp and Threads will be spaces to leverage reach. They are both Meta platforms, after all.

Another popular trend, focusing on direct traffic, has already been a reality in my blog for a good few years. I will continue to invest in this and in decentralized platforms. Reader’s support, spreading the word and funding the project (there’s a paid subscription offer), is essential.

Do you know those action movie traps, in which the characters are in a room and opposite walls are slowly approaching in order to crush them? I see the web there in the middle, squeezed between cheap social media platforms and stupid generative artificial intelligences.


The funniest thing about all this? There was little variation in the gain and loss (in the case of X/Twitter) of followers. I almost forget to mention this, for you to feel how I’m concerned with social media.

By the way, the audience stats of my Portuguese-written blog, object of this experiment, are open.

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