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Election 2016 content on Facebook

Three Things to Know About Evergreen Political Stories

We look at what Election 2016 stories show signs of evergreen status, and what publishers can learn from them.

Last week, we took a look at some of the biggest Election 2016 stories for five leading publishers. One of the most interesting trends to emerge from our analysis was that several of the stories were evergreen. That is, the stories were continuing to reach wide audiences and drive strong engagement weeks after their publication date.

In light of this, we used NewsWhip Spike’s dedicated US Election 2016 tag to identify other stories with potentially evergreen status. Looking at content from January 1st to April 4th, a number of trends became apparent.

Here’s an overview of engagement generated by Election 2016 content in that time period, as seen in the NewsWhip Analytics dashboard:

 

Overall stats[2]

 

And a table showing the biggest stories:

 

Table showing the top 10 Election 2016 stories from Jan - April 2016

 

Of these pieces, a number – notably, articles from Vox, Politico, the Guardian and Washington Post – appear to show more longevity among social users. From this, three clear trends emerge.

 

(1) Evergreen political content tends to be more in-depth/analytical

 

It should come as no surprise to publishers that lengthier and more detailed articles tend to have a longer shelf life. Breaking news stories hoover up engagements immediately following release, but readers respond to more in-depth pieces over time. As elections develop, audiences are better able to appreciate the information and context provided by long-form articles. This in turn compels them to share the content on, ensuring the pieces reach a continuously wide audience.

Of the articles we looked at, two pieces from the Guardian and Vox are strong examples of this. The Guardian’s “Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump. Here’s why” breaks down a number of factors contributing to Trump’s widespread support. As the candidate continues to dominate the Republican race, articles like this provide important insight for those curious about his supporters.

Screenshot of a guardian.com article in Spike

 

Try Spike for free now and see which Election 2016 stories are getting the most interactions on social.

 

Similarly, Vox’s “The rise of American authoritarianism” offers highly detailed reporting on a cultural tendency which may be influencing his supporters. Both of these pieces were published in early March and continue to attract strong engagement. The Vox piece has earned 559,975 engagements, almost twice the amount of any other piece of Election 2016 content published in this period.

 

(2) Evergreen pieces focus not necessarily on a specific candidate, but a specific issue

 

As we noted above, many evergreen pieces succeed over time because they contextualise complex issues. While candidates themselves attract a considerable volume of coverage, readers also respond to pieces which explain the status quo. Understanding the current state of affairs is valuable for audiences, as it allows them to better consider how candidates will affect that.

In our analysis, a good example of this is Politico’s piece “The Nation He Built”. Reported and published between January and February, it looks at the legislative changes made by President Obama during his two terms in office. The article is quick to point out that many of these changes were effected relatively quietly, so audiences may not be familiar with all of them. The learnings from this are twofold: firstly, it’s detached from current campaign rhetoric, which can become ubiquitous and tiresome for readers. However, it also provides a succinct overview of information which is highly pertinent to the election. This ensures it is relevant enough to capture audience attention, but distinctive enough to stand out in a sea of coverage.

 

Screenshot of a politico.com article

At time of writing, this piece had nearly 193,000 engagements.

 

(3) Most evergreen pieces lean liberal

 

Of the evergreen articles we identified, the vast majority tend to be liberal in tone. More and more publishers are renouncing a neutral stance and openly endorsing (or criticising) different candidates. It speaks to how polarising the 2016 election has been thus far, but also indicates that social users respond to partisanship in articles.

As with all things in 2016, Donald Trump’s influence is keenly evident in this trend. The candidate is attracting criticism even from within the Republican party, which in turn means a wider audience for articles denouncing his views. It also means articles in favour of opposing candidates – mainly Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – get a boost, as some voters may find themselves undecided the closer it gets to polling day.

The New York Times’ opinion piece “No, Not Trump, Not Ever” earned a huge response on social, and is steadily gaining traction again. Its endorsement of Hillary Clinton is the eighth biggest piece of content for this period, indicating steady engagement as time continues. Zachary Leven’s Medium piece, “The Case For Hillary”, compares Clinton and Sanders’ stances and has earned over 171,000 engagements.

 

In-depth political reporting helps relationship building with readers

 

Much political content is fast-moving, as publishers seek to keep up with emerging stories and developments. However, lengthier and more detailed pieces allow publishers to establish an authoritative voice on a topic, building a strong relationship with readers. Publishers can use these learnings to help plan and maximise their own evergreen content.

Check back soon on the blog for an analysis of how the different 2016 candidates generate engagement for publishers.