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The Biggest Sites on Facebook in Germany, France and Ireland


By   |   January 21st, 2016   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Digital Journalism

We looked at the biggest sites on Facebook in France, Germany and Ireland, and found the publishers that are attracting most engagement in news feeds. 

When it comes to measuring Facebook engagement for European sites, the numbers can be quite different to our English language rankings.

Many of these sites are household names in their home countries, and seem to be furthering their brand as they transition their focus from TV sets and news stands to social media feeds. We took a look at the picture in three different language markets in the EU, focussing on Germany, France and Ireland.

For these rankings, we looked at total Facebook interactions (likes + shares + comments) on content published in December 2015 only. The top eight sites from each country were counted.

Germany: Legacy Media Reigns

The biggest German sites on Facebook

We last looked at the German picture one year before, in December 2014. Back then, Bild was the clear leader, as the only site with over 2 million monthly engagements.

One year later, magazine site Focus is out in front, with over 2.3 million engagements on their December content.

It doesn’t appear to be a once-off – their numbers were even greater in November. Taking a closer look, there might be a simple explanation. Arriving on the site’s most shared story of December, readers are greeted with a pop-up that encourages a share to read the full piece, or to become a fan of Focus on Facebook.

Here’s the Google translation:

Focus Facebook pop up

The biggest German sites on Facebook are undoubtedly the legacy ones. The numbers suggest that the legacy sites have managed to consolidate their positions in the rankings.

This being Germany, it’s particularly interesting to look at the positioning of various Axel Springer titles. Tabloid site Bild has slightly less interactions since we last checked, but still extremely strong in the German market.

Further down, Die Welt managed to record significant engagement, with almost 1.5 million engagements.

When Springer bought out TV station N24 in 2013, its newsroom was combined with that of Die Welt’s to create a truly cross-platform newsroom with lofty digital aspirations. N24 now lie in eight place.

Elsewhere, news magazine Der Spiegel come in third, and their political stories and features have seen significant success on Facebook.  Meanwhile, the website of commercial TV station Sport1 had a good month, coming in fifth overall for total engagements. As is the case with many sports sites, the vast bulk of their interactions were made up of likes, suggesting that a lot of the engagement take place in the Facebook news feed itself.

Finally, German language digital upstarts are rare beasts in the upper echelons. By far the most successful is satirical site Der Postillon, an independent site that runs content in the vein of the Onion.

With almost 850,000 Facebook interactions on just 62 articles last month, the site is attracting enviable levels of engagement. Their most shared story of last month: the news that Facebook would be shutting down for three months, while Mark Zuckerberg took parental leave.

France: L’Equipe Takes Gold

Compared to some other EU markets, French engagement on Facebook is high. We recorded over 20 sites with more than 1 million combined monthly engagement in December, compared to just five in Germany.

Here were the top eight in December:

The biggest French sites on Facebook

Sport specialists L’Equipe have managed to hold onto their number one position since December 2014. Their topical sports coverage seems popular year-round, and they remain well in the lead.

Broadsheet Le Monde was in second place, with almost 5 million engagements. That’s significant growth over the 12 months since the last report, when they clocked in with 1.2 million interactions. Their most popular stories in December point to an interesting parallel with the New York Times last month, who saw great success with editorials and opinion pieces.

With a backdrop of regional elections, Le Monde’s most shared pieces were politically-themed. The first was an op-ed from editor Jérôme Fenoglio, criticising National Front leader Marine le Pen (27,700 shares). The piece had over 100,000 Facebook interactions in total, and generated significant attention online. The second was an open letter to le Pen, attracting 17,100 shares.

Again, there aren’t a whole pile of social natives in the French rankings. Demotivateur is still the clear leader, by now is setting the standard for viral entertainment sites in Europe. Like many of their successful US peers, the site see significant traffic on mobile (77% in January 2015), and have grown with a very small team (11 as of 12 months ago).

Demotivateur home page

Ireland: Digital Natives Make A Mark

Ireland is NewsWhip’s home, and Irish sites were among the very first added to our database. This is the first time we’ve looked at the national picture in the Irish Republic.

The biggest Irish sites on Facebook

The numbers reflect the smaller market (total population: 4.6 million), but Facebook has deep reach in Ireland. Indeed, along with Spain, it provided the first testing ground for Facebook’s new ‘mood-based’ engagements.

Independent.ie, the online branch of the INM newspaper group, takes the lead in news feeds with over 1 million engagements over the month.

Not far behind is broadsheet the Irish Times, which had just under 1 million engagements over the month. Unlike Independent.ie, which is a free-to-read site, the Times operates a paywall, which allows ten free reads per week. However, click-throughs from social media are not included in the weekly total.

But unlike the German and French examples, the legacy sites have a bit stiffer competition. In third place is men’s site Joe.ie, with 637,000 engagements on under 1,000 articles that month. They’re joined further down the list by Maximum Media stablemates Her.ie, with over 394,000 engagements. Both sites are relatively new, targeting young Irish readers at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, digital native Breaking News has a strong billing, along with newcomer The Liberal.

Finally satirical site Waterford Whispers News sees strong engagement in fourth place. Like Germany’s Der Postillon, WWN’s low output attracts healthy levels of average engagement, showing that humour has its place in the news feed. (They get bonus points for previously crediting NewsWhip as a source of their inspiration.)

Try Spike to spot the trending stories in your country, city, or area of interest today. 

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