The Biggest Facebook Sites of December 2015

January 14, 2016

Written by NewsWhip

We look at the 25 biggest Facebook publishers of December 2015. 
After a break of a few months in ranking the biggest sites on Facebook, we’re back with a look at December’s most engaged sites.
When reviewing the numbers this time, we found a decent level of change since October, with many ‘legacy’ sites improving their positioning, if not their overall totals.
It’s too early to definitely say what effect Instant Articles’ deployment will mean for overall publisher engagement levels, but you’ll notice that many of the top 25 sites listed below are already actively using the feature.
Here’s some of what we found:

  • The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed maintain their lead at the top of the ranking,
  • Issues such as the environment and gun control featured strongly in conversation on Facebook in December,
  • The Washington Post breaks into the top ten most shared graph for the first time, while politics site The Hill makes its first entry to the top 25.

Read on for a breakdown of the 25 biggest sites, and analysis.
First, here were the top ten English language sites on Facebook last month, ranked by shares of the stories that they published in December. Numbers via Spike:
The Biggest Sites On Facebook, December 2015
At the top, the Huffington Post are back in first position, with over five million shares and 32.4 million engagements for the month. Their content and social media engines show no signs of slowing down.
BuzzFeed are solidly in second place, with 26.4 million engagements on their English language content. For anyone that thought that the popularity of lists had faded on social media, take another look at the composition of BuzzFeed’s most shared stories on Facebook in December:
However, what’s particularly interesting about December’s numbers are the number of hard news sites that managed to work their way into the top ten most shared chart.
The New York Times are in fifth place. They saw a slight decline in overall engagements since August, but managed to hold strong among the top ten sites.
Looking at the Times’ most engaged stories of the month tell us a lot about the nature of what type of stories are popular with Facebook users. Their biggest stories were heavily issue-focussed, ranging on topics from climate change, to gun control, to the refugee crisis.
Their biggest story of the month on Facebook also acted as a rare front page editorial calling for increased gun control drew much attention on Facebook, with almost 370,000 interactions in December.

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In second place was an opinion piece titled ‘All Politicians Lie. Some Lie More Than Others.‘ As well as being shared over 71,500 times, and liked 190,500 times, the article drew 106,000 comments on Facebook alone.
Opinion pieces work particularly well for the Times on Facebook. Indeed, the most shared NYT byline on Facebook in December, by a considerable margin, was ‘The Editorial Board‘, with 179,000 Facebook shares. Also in the top five NYT authors by Facebook shares were Angie Drobnic Holan (author of the biggest story), and columnist Nicolas Kristof (39,300 shares).

The BBC will also be happy with their performance last month. As we’ve noted before, the BBC’s best performing stories on social media tend to be coverage of breaking news events. In December, that encompassed an interesting range of topics; the death of Motorhead guitarist Lemmy, the closing of a bridge in Scotland due to bad weather and the unveiling of an ‘anti-pee wall‘ in London were all shared and liked heavily last month.

Finally, their biggest Facebook story of the month was a quiz that asked “How Dark Is Your Personality?“, and attracted over 250,000 Facebook interactions.

News and Politics Sites the Big Winners in December

The Washington Post get their best performance to date, coming in at ninth overall in terms of shares. They managed to increase their overall total significantly since August, with a bulk of those new engagements coming as shares. It’s still too early to say for sure what effect their policy of publishing all stories as Instant Articles has had on this, but our own analysis from late 2015 does suggest that the Instant Articles are attracting a higher-than-average level of engagement.
Interestingly, some of the Post’s most shared stories were also environment-related, such as a story about toxic water in Michigan (46,000 shares), and a polar storm (37,000 shares).
The Daily Mail also climbed strongly, coming in at fifth biggest overall. Last month, Social Media Editor Chris Lawrence told us that the Mail were also doing lots of experimentation with video on Facebook:
“Everyone knows about Facebook’s obsession with video and the company’s enthusiasm for 360-degree videos and live-streaming should give clear indication of the way things are going. Video is Facebook’s future.
Daily Mail’s video content has had huge reach on Facebook this year. It’s clear to us that audiences love the medium and it’s something we’ve embraced.”
CNN also saw strong gains on Facebook, bringing their total for the month to over 14.8 million, and the India Times, which covers trending stories in India, also managed a big finish, with over 17 million interactions for the month.
One newcomer to the top 25 is US political site The Hill, which had over 8.9 million engagements in December. Their entrance caps off a good year for the site – they also recorded the biggest online year-over-year traffic growth among US publishers.
Interestingly, Neetzan Zimmerman joined The Hill last year as Senior Director of Audience & Strategy, having previously worked viral magic at Gawker. The Hill now has over half a million Facebook fans on their main page, up from 300,000 last summer. That’s modest compared to some of the fans on pages of the other names in the top 25, but their posts seem to be resonating.
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With plenty of fodder ahead for US political sites, we’re likely to see more movement and engagement in this vertical on Facebook in 2016.
It’s probable that a shift to other native formats is affecting how some publishers are choosing to distribute their content on different platforms, including Facebook. We’ll be waiting to see how the make-up of these rankings, particularly outside the top three, change in the coming months.

Find what’s trending in your space on Facebook, with Spike

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 biggest facebook publishers of December 2015
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, please feel free to drop us a line.

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