The Biggest Facebook Publishers of September 2015 – With Native Content


By   |   October 21st, 2015   |   Reading time: 6 minutes Digital Journalism

We look at the top performing sites on Facebook, adding in the native engagement for their main Facebook pages for the first time. 

With yesterday’s announcement that Facebook Instant Articles are finally live for all iPhone users, it looks as though the composition of mobile news feeds are set to change once more.

Two things were particularly striking about yesterday’s news:

1) The immediacy of the roll-out. After months of waiting, and mixed media reports, Instant Articles arrived with a bang for all iPhone users. As well as that, we learned that a version for Android users is already being tested. Perhaps Google’s AMP project and Twitter Moments encouraged Facebook to get this out the door ahead of schedule.

2) The volume and variety of publishers that have signed up to come on board with Instant Articles. From local news start-up Billy Penn to the most widely circulated paper in the US (USA Today), a host of different sites have been convinced to give Instant a go.

With all that in mind, we were keen to take another look at how we’re measuring engagement with content on Facebook.

As we mentioned in our recent post on measuring engagement with native content, with more publishers creating content designed to be consumed directly in the stream, new means of measuring engagement are needed.

For the first time, we combined native engagement with videos and images on each of the top 25 publishers’ main Facebook page with their overall totals to

Here were the top ten, adjusted to take account of shares of native video and images posted on their main Facebook pages in September. The data is from Spike.

Combined-Facebook-Rankings

The first chart shows the ranking of the top 25 sites based on shares of links from each publishers’ site.

The second chart shows the the top 10, ranked by a combination of their regular site shares, and shares of the native videos and images posted to their main Facebook pages in September. Note that these numbers don’t include the share count for all Facebook pages associated with each publisher, just their flagship page. This graph shows a slight shift in order, as sites with more native engagement rise through chart, while others drop down slightly. For both, the ‘big three’ on Facebook – BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post and Fox News – retain their positions.

BuzzFeed are on top, with just under 36 million Facebook interactions last month on links from their site. Adding in the engagement on videos and images posted to the main BuzzFeed Facebook page, their overall score for the month rises to 39.2 million engagements. Of course, as we’ve previously noted on this blog, many of BuzzFeed’s most popular Facebook videos are posted on different Facebook pages.

Of the top 25, it’s IFLScience who do the best from native, adding over 7.44 million engagements to their on-site total of 11.48 million. Counting these figures, IFLS jump from 18th place to 8th, ahead of the New York Times, MTV and Bleacher Report. They get a huge number of interactions on their images, which are aimed at anyone interested in the natural world. Their videos and images saw average shares of over 65,000 per post in September.

One trend that we see in looking at the native engagement is that broadcasters seem to reap big numbers.

BBC News, who have been pushing videos to their 20 million plus fans on Facebook to good results, see a boost of 3.25 million engagements on their main page. That’s enough to push them into fifth overall, the highest they’ve been in the Facebook rankings to date. The most shared video of the top 25 pages was a BBC clip of people welcoming Syrian refugees at a German train station, which saw over 373,000 shares alone. Indeed, the migrant crisis in Europe saw major engagement on Facebook in September, with many of the most shared stories of the month relating to the topic.

Another top 25 publisher that also benefits from this ranking re-structuring is CNN, who had 1.76 million engagements with video on images on their main page. This week, the broadcaster announced plans to launch a new video site, with a native distribution plan. Judging by what CNN have already learned about engaging people through video on social media, this new project could be enormously popular.

After the political excitement of August, Fox News falls back somewhat to third place overall. Their native content performed extremely well, with 277 posts on their main page gathering over 3.56 million interactions for them over the month.

CBS News perform strongly in the rankings, with a solid showing to come in at 11th overall for external and native engagement. The Manchester Evening News will also be happy to see that they are solidly maintaining their position in the top 25, with a barrage of Likes helping them on their way. The top performing local news site on Facebook, the MEN join their sister title the Mirror in maintaining a solid position in the top 25.

Some Ahead on Native

With many more publishers signing on for Facebook’s Instant Articles yesterday, the volume of engagements seen directly in the news feed itself will likely grow for more and more sites.

When this data is ranked by total native interactions, the top five are:

Fox News,
IFLScience,
BuzzFeed,
BBC,
Daily Mail.

So far, three of these publishers (BuzzFeed, Daily Mail and the BBC) have signed on for Instant Articles, but all five’s followers are clearly already happy to consume much of their content without ever visiting their sites.

So, what does looking at this new data tell us? Well, it gives us a better understanding of a few things.

1. There is a significant level of disparity between how these 25 publishers are using native content on Facebook. For instance, IFLS makes up over 50% of their monthly total through likes, comments and shares on their videos and images. Meanwhile, another millenial-focussed digital native, Diply, sees a minuscule fraction of its engagement coming from the same channel.

2. Some of the ‘legacy media’ sites are deep into their process of experimentation with native. The Guardian had over 243,000 shares on its most popular video of the month (a dog breaking a world record for catching balls), while their most shared website article (an opinion piece on industrial farming) was shared just over 49,000 times. But it’s not all soft videos that are proving popular on Facebook.  One of the BBC’s biggest videos of the month was footage of police clashing with refugees in Hungary.

3. For many publishers, the engagements recorded here are the tip of the iceberg. As noted above, we only counted each site’s main Facebook page for this round. But many have already expanded to target different audiences, with different formats. We hope to have a more complete picture of this activity on the blog soon.

Where Does the Data Come From?

All the data comes from Spike, our content discovery platform. Spike tracks the stories, videos and more that matter around the world in real time – Sign up for a free trial today.

The below chart shows ‘total interactions’ on links to the publishers’ stories. The Native Interactions column shows the number of engagements on videos and images on the publisher’s main Facebook page only during September. Finally, the TOTAL column combines both to give an overall engagement figure for the website and main Facebook page.

Screen-Shot-2015-10-21-at-3.25.33-PM

We’re constantly reviewing and updating our content coverage. If you think our numbers look off for any site, please drop us a line to contact at newswhip dot com

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