The Biggest Facebook Publishers of June 2016


By   |   July 14th, 2016   |   Reading time: 7 minutes Digital Journalism

We ranked the biggest sites on Facebook last month, with data and analysis for the top 25 sites. 

The first half of 2016 has been a time of significant change for publishers on Facebook. While recent reports point to more people than ever accessing their news through Facebook, there has never been such competition for space in news feeds, with more content seeming to be produced with each passing month.

On top of that, a new algorithm change has publishers wondering how their engagement and reach might change.

We looked at the performance of website content in terms of likes, comments and shares for different publishers in June. Here were the main talking points:

– The Huffington Post retain their place at the top of the rankings as the most engaged publisher on Facebook, followed by BuzzFeed.
– Brexit news coverage, analysis and opinion boosts engagement rates for numerous publications.
– Top publishers shift their engagements to native content strategies.

These were the ten most engaged sites of the month, ranked by total Facebook engagements:

Top 10 Facebook publishers, June 2016

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The Huffington Post retains its position at the top of the chart, with over 20 million engagements on the English language stories published in June. Their most popular stories were a mx of personal essays, news stories and op-eds.

BuzzFeed had over 19.2 million interactions on their new content in June, taking the most engaged story of the month in the process (see below).

Football site Goal.com also had a big month, with their Euro 2016 coverage in particular boosting engagement numbers significantly.

It was also a strong month for broadcasters such as NBC, Fox and CNN. Their enormous international reach and brand recognition means that their distribution opportunities are greatly enhanced on most social channels.

For those sites, there was a wide range of successful stories on Facebook. NBC’s story ‘Hillary Clinton wore a $12,495 Armani jacket during a speech about inequality‘ was one of the biggest on Facebook last month, attracting 270,000 interactions, almost half of which were comments.  One of CNN’s most popular stories was an interactive American citizenship test ahead of the holiday weekend. It’s clear that they’ve managed to leverage their enormous social followings to help put them ahead of some rivals.

Most of the sites in this top ten have now gone a significant way towards developing complete distributed content strategies. BuzzFeed recently announced that its native channels Tasty and Nifty would be running their first branded content campaigns with a credit card company, signalling that their platform-specific experiments are showing rewards.  

Meanwhile, the New York Times are now running a sophisticated Facebook Live video operation (check out our recent analysis for more on that).

There’s no doubt that these big publishers have moved towards a multi-platform distribution strategy for their content, rather than relying solely on engagement and readership earned through their owned properties.

Further down the top 25 list (see chart below for full breakdown), CBS News made significant gains since our last rankings in April, and USA Today also returned to the top 25.

The stories that resonated

As ever, there was an interesting mix of stories in the most shared rankings.

By far and away the most engaged story of June on Facebook was BuzzFeed’s ‘Here’s the Powerful Letter the Stanford Victim Read to her Attacker‘, with over 1.75 million engagements that month, including 333,000 shares. That impact statement was also the Guardian’s most shared story of the month, showing the huge impact that it had on social media users around the world.

For most of the more news-focussed publishers in our top 10 chart though, Britain’s vote to leave the EU dominated social engagements in June.

The Guardian’s most popular stories during the month were overwhelmingly opinion pieces around Brexit.

The Guardian in Spike

Brexit-related Guardian stories, shown in NewsWhip Spike

Indeed, many of the sites in the top ten saw their their most engaged stories of the month coming from the opinion pages of their websites. It seems as though it was the opinion pieces that were sparking conversations and sharing amongst Facebook users. Through our data, we’ve previously seen that strong opinion pieces can perform very strongly on Facebook, particularly around major news stories.

This makes sense in the context of Facebook – the breaking news that Britain has voted to leave the EU will only remain news for so long, while a strong opinion piece speaking to either side of the vote, or adding an interesting take on the event can provoke longer organic discussion amongst readers.

Despite that, the BBC were one publisher who did see huge interaction on their breaking news and Brexit coverage in June. Their most shared story of the month was their politics liveblog, which gave rolling updates throughout the Brexit lead-in and fallout.

Who’s getting shares?

Of course, all publishers will be curious as to the impact of Facebook’s algorithm changes on their engagement levels over the next few months. After Facebook’s most recent news feed updates, we published a three step guide to what it meant for publishers.

One of the things that we thought publishers would be focussing more on getting their readers to start sharing stories of their own volition, rather than relying heavily on getting their stories from the publisher pages that they liked on Facebook.

“The idea is that a user may be more inclined to stop and read a story if it’s posted by their friend, rather than a page. For publishers that already see healthy levels of ‘organic sharing’ (such as use of share buttons), this won’t be an issue. Other publishers will need to think about how important their main Facebook page is in delivering engagements and clicks overall. Are people finding your content on your site and through friends’ sharing habits, or is overwhelmingly through your main Facebook pages?”

If we re-rank the top 40 sites in our database for June based on how much of a percentage their shares make up overall interactions, the picture changes somewhat. These were the top five sites with the highest ratios of shares to total engagements in June:

% of Facebook Interactions as Shares, June 2016

The Financial Times is well out in front, with almost 22% of their interactions as shares. It was a remarkably strong month for the FT, as they recorded their highest position in our rankings so far, with over 4.73 million engagements for the month – not bad for a site with a hard paywall. While the site does allow a certain number of ‘read-for-free’ articles via social media, its approach is to ask new readers to pay £1 for a monthly trial. Other publishers will be watching closely to see whether it’s a model that they can learn from.

Elsewhere, UK site the Daily Express also maintained a strong share ratio, along with ‘Only in Your State‘, which looks to connect readers with places of interest, on a localised basis.

It’s going to be important for publishers of all types to study their metrics closely to see what kind of stories Facebook users are responding to.

The top 25 sites, with full data

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

The data comes from NewsWhip’s social database, which tracks the performance of over 2 million digital objects – stories, social posts, videos and more – around the world, everyday.

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.

Top 25 Facebook Publishers, June 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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