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The Biggest Facebook Publishers of October 2015


By   |   November 17th, 2015   |   Reading time: 7 minutes Digital Journalism

We take a look at the biggest publishers on Facebook in October 2015.

October on Facebook was dominated by politics and current affairs. In a month with multiple presidential debates, and one prospective presidential candidate’s appearance before a congressional hearing, multiple publishers earned big numbers off hard news stories. However, a shooting at a school in Oregon early in the month also sparked significant debate about gun control, both in reports from news publishers and the comments to their Facebook pages.

Here are three notable conclusions from this month’s rankings:

  • Conservative news publishers rank prominently this month, with Breitbart among the top 10 most-shared publishers.
  • Topical news articles, pertaining both to current events and Halloween festivities, generated significant discussion among users.
  • Native content drove big numbers, but the biggest publishers continued to post large amounts of external links.

These were the biggest publishers on Facebook in October 2015, ranked by total shares:

Most-shared table

Comparing these to last month’s rankings, the top three remain unchanged. BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, and Fox continue to lead the pack on Facebook, earning almost 17 million shares between them. Construing the numbers more closely, BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post have a comfortable lead on third-placed Fox. BuzzFeed earned well over 6.2 million shares in October, just about 300,000 more than the Huffington Post’s 5.9 million. Fox notched up just under 4.7 million shares, a striking figure in and of itself but one which falls some distance behind the two big digital natives.

[bctt tweet=”‘.@buzzfeed earned 6.2 million shares to become the biggest Facebook publisher in October'”]

Looking at the rest of the top 10, it is similarly reflective of recent rankings. The New York Times, the BBC, and Breitbart continue to be well-represented in breakdowns of Facebook shares. The BBC saw particular success in this regard in October, with a video seeking to explain the conflict in Syria single-handedly earning a big chunk of engagement.

This piece of content generated 144,537 engagements for the BBC, 61% of which were shares. It’s worth noting that the video captures many aspects of successful Facebook videos – it’s short (90 seconds long), highly visual, and breaks down a highly topical issue in succinct fashion.

Looking at the overall rankings, the above graph shifts somewhat when publishers are ranked by the total engagements received in October. BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, and Fox remain in the top three, but a more vivid indication emerges of their lead over fellow publishers.

Overall engagements - top 10 - table

As this visual shows, the three highest-placed publishers each earned over 30 million total interactions (defined as the total Facebook likes, shares, and comments received in October). This gives them an edge of some 6 million interactions over their nearest rival, NBC. NBC itself charted an impressive 24.5 million engagements in October and in turn finds itself somewhat adrift from the next-placed publisher in the ranking, The Guardian.

[bctt tweet=”‘The 3 most successful Facebook publishers of Oct 2015 each earned over 30 million engagements'”]

Comments as a Source of Engagement

Several names in the rankings move around when different metrics are considered. For example, Little Things, which places fifth among most-shared publishers, falls to 13th overall. The New York Times equally drops a few places, moving to 11th overall. Breitbart, which ranks 9th for shares, is the 14th biggest publisher overall. However, looking at individual metrics for some of these publishers, the role played by comments in furthering engagement is intriguing.

For Breitbart, comments were easily the biggest metric in October. The conservative publisher generated 3.3 million comments on its Facebook page over the course of the month. To put that in perspective, this means 41% of its total interactions for the month came in the form of comments. (For comparison, Fox earned only 16% of its total engagements from comments.) Conservative news is known to generate big numbers and discussion on Facebook, and taking into account October’s stream of political events it’s perhaps to be expected that an influential publisher would facilitate enormous debate. Looking at individual posts which sparked big discussion on Breitbart’s page, gun control and immigration feature prominently.

Breitbart Article title

Total Facebook comments

October 2015

“Women cry foul as Glamour Magazine names Bruce Jenner ‘Woman of the Year’”

15,635

“Actress Julianne Moore: ‘A majority of gun owners’ want more gun control”

10,439

“Jerry Brown signs bill that could let illegal aliens vote”

10,019

“Bernie Sanders: Gun manufacturers may need to be held liable for gun crime”

7,309

“Susan Rice blames climate change for conflict in Syria”

6,992

The top three most-commented pieces earned over 10,000 comments each. Intense discussion on posts such as these add considerably to Breitbart’s engagements, giving them more well-rounded metrics than other publishers which often harvest huge volumes of likes but much smaller figures for comments and shares. As an example, Bleacher Report’s content generated almost 17 million likes in October. This figure accounts for 88% of its total engagements. When publishers are ranked according to Facebook likes alone, Bleacher Report places sixth; however, it falls to 18th when the names are sorted according to comments. This is broadly indicative of an overall trend in sports publishing, one which may be accounted for by fans looking to acknowledge a result by hitting “like”, for instance, but not feeling the need to share the post on given the result may already be common knowledge amongst their friends.

[bctt tweet=”‘41% of @breitbartnews’ total Facebook engagements for October came from comments'”]

Halloween and Topical Content

In a month with no shortage of hard news, many publishers nevertheless got their biggest boost from Halloween-themed content. Little Things did particularly well in this regard, earning huge shares off a series of recipe videos. Their biggest post for the month was a video detailing how to make breakfast muffins, which was shared 17,069 times alone. Other videos offered topical recipes and were well-received by fans of the page. A recipe for “Scary Teeth Apples” earned 10,384 shares –

– while another one for pumpkin cinnamon rolls generated 8,231 shares. Indeed, food videos have proven to be particularly popular on Facebook. Recipes have a unique visual aspect which lends itself to sharing by video, as the success of the BuzzFeed Food page attests. For its part, BuzzFeed’s biggest post also related to Halloween but took the form of a photo.

This photo, about a little boy dressing up as a princess for Halloween, earned 909,268 likes and 246,618 shares for a combined total of over a million engagements. BuzzFeed’s second biggest post earned about half that (549,238 engagements) on a video of a woman surprising her husband with a pregnancy announcement. The obvious appeal of these content themes to parents is influential, given what we’ve previously noted about the significance of this demographic on Facebook.

[bctt tweet=”‘Halloween-themed content was hugely successful on Facebook in October’ #contentstrategy”]

Native vs External

Breaking the top five publishers’ content into external and native links, the following chart illustrates what percentage of engagements came from native.

Native content percentage table

This suggests that on average, 38% of engagements derived by the five biggest publishers came from native content. With the exception of the Huffington Post, each publisher’s biggest story was a native one. BuzzFeed’s biggest post, as discussed above, was a photo. Fox also earned big numbers off its photo of an athlete participating in a flag relay to raise money for veterans. NBC and the Guardian both earned their biggest numbers from videos – NBC with its report on a pioneering surgery, and the Guardian with a video of a gorilla playing with kittens for ultimate feel good factor.

However, the breakdown of engagements suggests that while native content continues to draw huge numbers, the overall picture is a little more complex. Each of the top five publishers for October posted large amounts of external links, indicating that encouraging readers to visit a flagship website is still a primary aim. With the continuing rollout of Facebook Instant Articles, it remains to be seen how this approach will change over time.

Please find the full data below for the top 25 sites in October.

Where Does the Data Come From?

All the data comes from Spike, out 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.

Top 25 overall table

Whilst we strive for complete coverage, sometimes we will miss some content for some publishers. If it looks to you like we’re missing something, please feel free to drop us a line at contact[at]newswhip[dot]com.

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