Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, appeared in front of the US Senate following the controversy brewed by reports that data firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly gained data on up to 87 million Facebook users.
Since the Cambridge Analytica, users – and brands – have been abandoning the platform, even starting a movement, #DeleteFacebook.
Now, according to Brian Wieser, a Pivotal Research analyst who reviewed Nielsen digital consumption data, Google has been gaining ground. In fact, in as early as January, Facebook lost ground to Google as users spent more time on YouTube and other Alphabet Inc. properties.
These properties, including YouTube and Waze, combined to account for 27.4 percent of all time spent on digital media – up three percentage points from the previous year. By contrast, Facebook’s share of time spent fell about two points to 16.3 percent over the same period.
Facebook depends on people coming back frequently so it can collect data and use it to target ads at them. The company said in the fourth quarter that people were spending less time on the site after Facebook began shifting users’ news feeds back toward posts from friends and family and away from businesses and media outlets. But if the trend continues, investors could take it as a sign that users are losing interest in Facebook.
However, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in his Senate testimony that Facebook has not seen a dramatic decrease in use following reports that private data on millions of users was scooped up by the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
In Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings published this month, YouTube accounts for half of all Google activity and continues to draw consumption well in excess of 20 percent year-over-year every month, Weiser says with other Google properties expanding by 33 percent.
Facebook’s main site lost five percent in time spent, despite a four percent increase in the number of users. That amounts to an eight percent decline per person, Weiser says. Instagram, a Facebook property, did much better with a seven percent increase in time per user.