… scoring all Social traffic as “earned” is seriously disingenuous. Having been around a few investors and acquirers eyeing these types of content sites, they become much less attractive after seeing how much of that kitchy Social audience is bought and paid for.
As more of these sites are spun out, those once-impressive traffic acquisition margins are being compressed. Much like most of Paid Search is run at breakeven or even negative margin (that’s another post for another day, but Paid Search is often run by CLTV instead of CPA at big brands), we may soon see Social or clickbait content sites run along the same fiscal lines to build longer term, defensible audiences. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t happening at more than a few now. As that happens, expect to see the Direct traffic contributions increase for recurring earned audiences. This metric will differentiate which Sites live on as brands.
Taking a look at the other sites, this trend of SEO traffic becoming a meaningful channel to Social sites continues. Many are growing Organic Search audience at the same rate as Buzzfeed, albeit in lower absolute numbers.