We take a look at the biggest social publishers in three major European markets: France, Sweden and Italy.
News distribution on Facebook today means that readers across Europe are as likely to come across stories from BuzzFeed and the New York Times as their own national news sites.
Titles like Le Monde in France and Expressen in Sweden still have to compete with BuzzFeed’s exploding watermelons, viral posts from US operators, and increasing dependence on mobile and social media to access news.
However, they do have a potential advantage in being able to cater to their audience in their native language. Looking at the numbers for three markets shows different levels of engagement for the sites, but some impressive engagement rates being posted nonetheless.
Starting with France, these were the top 10 most shared sites in February:
When we last looked at the French picture in December, L’Equipe were in pole position, followed by big media names like Le Monde, Le Parisien and others. Temporarily discounting L’Equipe due to data collection issues, the line-up remains pretty similar.
This time, 20Minutes overtake Le Monde. 20Minutes is a free daily paper aimed at commuters in French cities and also has editions in other European countries. Online however, 20Minutes targets a much wider demographic, with a busy stream of news, sport and commentary aimed at social news readers each day. Its name comes from the length of time it should take to read the printed version, and that’s a philosophy that endures on the website, in a much reduced fashion. Articles are short, with clear visuals and compelling social hooks.
Elsewhere on the list, although there is a shifting of positions, engagement rates seem to have slowed since we last surveyed the sites in December.
FranceTV Info jump one spot to fourth overall, despite a decline in total engagements since December. It’s likely a combination of December being a generally busy month for publishers on social media, and rising engagement on internal Facebook formats such as video explain the downturn.
Meanwhile, news site Liberation, shared its insightful experience with Instant Articles last month, is further down in the rankings, with just over one million engagements for the month.
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Next to Sweden, where news site Expressen are out in front, with over 4 million engagements for the month.
Not far behind come another tabloid site, Aftonbladet, who are aggressively challenging for attention in Swedes’ Facebook feeds. Following these two well-known news brands is ‘Newsner’, a viral-focussed site that has over 260,000 fans of its Swedish language Facebook page. Newsner is run by a digital marketing agency, and publishes light, positivity-fuelled stories for a young audience.
Of all the European markets we’ve surveyed on this blog, Sweden’s publishers may be competing most fiercely for young readers. Both Expressen and Aftonbladet have launched in-house Newsner-type subsites of their own (‘Omtalat’ and ‘Lajkat’), and there is a constant focus on the importance of attracting mobile readers, a mindset that seems crucial for success.
Last year we talked to Dan Edstrom, Head of Social Media at Expressen. Talking about the Swedish media landscape, Dan had the following observation:
“We are operating in a country where like 8 out of 10 people have a smartphone, and where there is at least 3G speed mobile internet almost everywhere, so mobile is pretty much everything right now. Mobile is rapidly overtaking desktop as the main news channel and it is our biggest site since last year.”
Further down the list, there are strong showings for TV station SVT and daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, with over 1 million monthly engagements each. After that, things drop off more significantly than for the other two countries covered here, possibly pointing to a two-tier race when it comes to social distribution.
It’s the first time that we look at Italian publishers on Facebook. Italians get a lot of their news of the platform – 55% use it weekly for news, compared with 35% in France.
Daily newspaper La Repubblica is well out in front, with over six million engagements for the month.
Interestingly, animal-related stories from the site’s Environment section performed extremely well on Facebook in March. Some of their most popular stories for the month involved a penguin, a photo of an ‘inseparable’ trio at a zoo, and Armani’s decision to ban fur products.
But that’s not all, of course: there were plenty of interactions on stories about breaking news, the economy and politics too. Like many English language sites, La Repubblica have also been using Facebook video heavily so far this year, and are attracting tens of thousands of views on their live clips.
A large media market, Italian publishers’ transition to digital has been anything smooth for many sites. But there may be signs of some consolidation: two of the larger players, the publishers of Il Repubblica and La Stampa, merged last month to form a new publishing group.
Tellingly, there are comparatively few digital native sites in the Italian rankings, and phenomenon that we’ve seen in other EU markets, too. Many of the names in the top ten chart are also familiar sights on Italian news stands.
This makes the inclusion of the Italian version of the Huffington Post all the more interesting: in a competitive marketplace, they hold their own, and with the lowest monthly output of the top ten sites listed.
In final place, news agency ANSA comes in with just over one million interactions for the month.