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The Biggest Facebook Publishers of August 2014

Building up a loyal subscriber base is one way of growing your influence on Facebook, as we find out in this month’s rankings. 

It was a hectic August in online media. ISIS, Gaza, Ukraine – some of the biggest news stories of the year fell right in the middle of what’s normally called the ‘silly season’.

Publishers were busy telling these stories to readers on social media, and some were more successfully than others. According to Spike, here are the top ten Facebook publishers of the month, ranked by total shares:

top facebook august

The Huffington Post maintains a lead that seems more and more untouchable as the months go by. They scored nearly 10 million shares alone, while they also had an enviable 9.3 million comments. It’s jaw-dropping engagement that seems to multiply each month.

Despite the Huffington Post’s strides at the top, the difference in sharing activity can vary significantly from month to month for publishers. In terms of Facebook referral traffic, there’s a belief that the algorithm rewards content that’s performing well, while making it difficult for sites that have had a bad month. As Gawker’s Max Read put it in a recent post examining a sudden fall-off in referrals during July:

“One problem with the Facebook algorithm is that it’s prone to feedback loops: It rewards few clicks with fewer opportunities for clicks, and so on. A bad month gets worse; a good month gets better.”

In the same way, it’s probable that engagements are affected by the overall reception of recently posted content on a page.

Here’s how the top ten’s overall Facebook interactions changed between July and August:

july august differences facebook

The difference between the top ten when ranked by shares only, as opposed to a combination of Likes, Comments and Shares, is revealing. Ranked by shares alone, considered to be a more solid indicator of distribution, the picture is a little different. Gone are IFL Science, TPNN and ABS-CBN, all with strong subscriber numbers on their Facebook pages. News sites dominate, along with PlayBuzz, whose quizzes seem to make for good shareable content.

Back in the rankings, Fox News broke the 20 million interactions mark for the first time, narrowing the gap on BuzzFeed at an almighty pace. Political site the Independent Journal Review had one of its best months to date, coming in with over 14 million interactions for the month.

Last month, we were talking about the rapid success of PlayBuzz. They’ve certainly risen fast, but they’re not the only ones. One newcomer to our rankings is the Tea Party News Network, which landed in the top 10 in August, based on overall Facebook engagements. Their presence will be of interest to watchers of these rankings – how can such a little-known site shoot up the ranks so quickly, while producing so few stories? Analyst David Uberti has speculated that “Such outlets have gained traction with inexpensive, often irreverent content, translating their audiences’ distrust of mainstream media into millions of clicks.”

And their rise comes at a cost to others, with the Washington Post, BBC and even The Blaze all dropping out of the top 25 last month. Success among these publishers is much more rapid than the levels seen at the likes of the New York Times, who bow out of the top ten, despite seeing reasonable growth.

Apart from those newcomers, science-focussed site IFLScience also gets a major lift.

Thanks to a cover story in the Columbia Journalism Review this month, we know a little more about who’s behind the site – a 22 year-old science graduate from the UK. Started as a Facebook page to share interesting science facts, the site’s rise has been a phenomenal example of the power of social distribution.

IFLScience stories with titles such as ‘Panda Fakes Pregnancy To Get More Food‘ were among the most-liked stories of the month on Facebook, proving that fact can be stranger than fiction, especially if you have an audience of over 18 million curious fans.

This month also marks the 12 month anniversary of our publishing of these monthly rankings. The biggest changes we’ve seen in the past year are two-fold – firstly, the huge increase in volume of sharing, liking and commenting across the network. We went into more detail on this on the blog recently.

Secondly, we’ve seen a whole range of new sites doing really well for themselves. In August 2013, Upworthy was the only ‘non-traditional’ site to feature on our top 10. Now we see sites like Elite Daily and Bleacher Report challenging sites with their social spread, while disruptors like the IJR and TPNN manage to connect to their widest audience yet. It’s an evolving landscape, and we’re excited to see what new ways publishers will find to connect with their readers on social media in the coming months.

Finally, no prizes for guessing what topic dominated the most-shared stories list for August.

How do we know all this?

We compiled our data using Spike, which tracks the content that people are sharing and engaging with in real time. It’s used by some of the world’s leading digital newsrooms and content creators. We’ve just launched version 2.0 – there’s a free trial for new users.

NewsWhip gathers its data from Spike, our professional platform that monitors the social distribution of news. While we strive for complete coverage, sometimes we will miss some content for some publishers. If it looks to you like we’re missing something or have our numbers wrong, drop us a line.