Top Facebook publishers

The Biggest Facebook Publishers of March 2016


By   |   April 13th, 2016   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Digital Journalism

After Facebook’s F8 keynote, we rank the sites with the most engagement on the platform in March 2016. 

Video isn’t the only format on Facebook – yet, at least. Our monthly analysis of the biggest stories and sites in the news feed yet again throws up some interesting findings.

Here were the main points from last month’s numbers:

– US election coverage dominates publishers’ Facebook engagements,
– There’s a reshuffle in the most shared chart, with the NYT, Daily Mail and LittleThings making gains,
– Newcomers to the top 25 sites include NPR and US Uncut.

These were the top ten most shared sites, based on numbers of shares on the stories they published in March:

10 Most Shared Sites On Facebook, March 2016

While there hasn’t been too much movement in the overall order of sites ranked by total engagements (see below), the top 10 most shared list has changed somewhat.

A number of sites saw reasonably impressive overall gains since February, including BuzzFeed (+500,000 engagements), the New York Times (+800,000) and the BBC  (+600,000). LittleThings came in at tenth most shared, with just over 1.9 million shares.

Meanwhile, Fox News saw a drop in shares, and CNN were overtaken on the top 10 chart.

And what were the stories dominating news feeds last month?

As we noted in a new post yesterday, the divisive nature of the 2016 US election is providing publishers with some hugely viral stories for bigger publishers like CNN, Fox and the Guardian. The Guardian’s biggest story of the month on Facebook was about Trump, as was the New York Times’.

We noticed that election-themed stories were driving significant engagement for these sites, smaller players have also been benefitting from the political

A notable example is Vox.com. Although the site doesn’t make the top 25 sites (it had around 3.8 million interactions on its stories in March), it did have some of the most engaged individual articles overall for the month. They included stories titled ‘The rise of American authoritarianism‘ (563,875 engagements) and ‘This simple calculator tells you how each presidential candidate’s tax plan affects you‘ (457,000 engagements), adding up to almost 1 million interactions between them.

One newcomer to the top 25 is NPR, who recorded over 6.4 million engagements during the month to come in at 24th overall. NPR have always performed reasonably well on Facebook, but aren’t usually seen in the rarified league of the top 25. NPR’s most popular stories on Facebook were on a variety of themes that we’ve previously seen prove quite popular on social media generally. Among them, stories about science and historic breaking news proved quite popular.

We’re big fans of NPR’s ‘Social Sandbox‘ blog at NewsWhip – it’s well worth checking out for tips and findings from their social media team. Recently, their analyst Dan Frohlich shared some research they carried out on optimum Facebook posting times.

Another new name in the top 25 list is US Uncut, a left-wing political site mainly covering election issues.

We’ve been talking a lot about the impact of Instant Articles on this blog for the last while, pointing to a lack of much data around them. Just this week however, we’ve seen more news about their effect. We now know that Instant Articles are being clicked on 20% more than regular links, and they’re also being shared around 30% more on average.

Our numbers do include total engagements on Instant Articles. At the moment, we aren’t breaking out the IA engagements separately, but we suspect that they’re now making up a significant chunk of the monthly totals. As the majority of the publishers in our top 25 list have already been using Instant Articles for a while, it’s likely that a rebalancing of engagement is taking place. This might help explain fluctuating engagement rates for some of the larger sites, but remember that the sites with extremely high volumes of monthly interactions seem more susceptible to these changes anyway.

Instant Articles are open to all publishers as of yesterday.

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F8 announcements open new possibilities

Yesterday’s F8 keynote brought a number of new announcements around Facebook generally. Specifically ,we heard a bit more about two key pillars of Facebook’s immediate development plans: messaging and video. The implications of both will have a significant effect on publishers in the long-term. While live and other forms of video are likely to take most of the immediate attention (what’s your drone strategy looking like?), the Messenger integration for publishers could also prove significant. Elsewhere, the revitalised ‘Save for Facebook‘ feature, which now allows users to save articles on the web to read later, might spark increased interest in reading content within the app.

The new developments are aimed at getting publishers to create and distribute content within the Facebook ecosystem itself. CNN and the Wall Street Journal are already on the new messaging app, with more to follow. It remains to be seen what the a) distribution, and b) engagement potential that Messenger holds for publishers, but going by experiences on other apps such as Line, it could be a lucrative new avenue – one that begins and ends in Facebook’s sphere.

Next: 

If you’re interested in seeing the stories, videos and posts taking off on Facebook in real time, sign up for a free Spike trial today.

These were the top 25 sites last month, ranked by total engagements on stories published in March. These numbers count all Facebook engagement on these sites’ links in March, including shares from publisher pages, copy-and-paste shares, and use of social sharing buttons on the websites themselves.

Facebook Top 25, March 2016

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 let us know. 

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