The Most Engaged Facebook Publishers of August 2016


By   |   September 22nd, 2016   |   Reading time: 6 minutes Digital Journalism

We’re back with data on the top 25 most engaged sites on Facebook in August 2016. 

With new developments coming apace at Facebook, our monthly round-up of the most engaged sites on the platform sheds some light on what’s working for publishers in 2016.

Here’s what’s new since last month:

– Growth in engagements for all sites with inclusion of Facebook Reactions, the Olympic effect, and possible algorithm alterations.
– The Huffington Post retain position at the top, while LittleThings and the India Times make strong gains to come in second and third overall,
– Seven sites reach over 20 million engagements for the month.

It’s important to note here that while website-based content and Instant Articles are included in these rankings, we aren’t looking at engagements on native and live videos. With that in mind, here were the top ten sites last month, ranked by total engagements on stories published in August:

Most Engaged Sites on Facebook, August 2016

What we’re looking at here are total engagements on web content for August 2016. Two points stick out. First off, the total engagements have grown significantly for almost all sites since July. Look at the growth for six select sites here:

Growth in Facebook engagements, July - August 2016

Next, the rankings are distributed much more evenly among the top ten sites than in the past.

Up until earlier this year, the top two (usually BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post) contended for first and second, far ahead of the rest of the field. It was considered an especially good month if a site broke the 20 million mark. In August, seven sites reached that mark. This seems to be a side effect of media companies pushing more resources into other native content formats, such as Instant Articles.

And why the overall growth? Well, there have been algorithm changes that may have affected content performance. In August, Facebook tweaked things to try and keep posts more ‘personally informative’ to users. Although many interpreted that as personal posts taking increased prominence over publisher content, that wasn’t the reasoning. The update explains:

“Generally, we’ve found people find stories informative if they are related to their interests, if they engage people in broader discussions and if they contain news about the world around them. That could be anything from recipes, to local issues, to global current events.”

For some pages that are consistently providing stories and posts that their followers find interesting, there may have been an uplift in engagement, as lower quality pages were pushed out of the feed.

Secondly, for the first time we’re looking at a combination of all possible interactions on articles on Facebook. As well as all Likes, Comments and Shares on web content, we’re now also including the total number of Facebook Reactions. The Reactions feature, launched globally at the end of February, has become more and more important over the last few months, to the point where the number is now very significant for some publishers.

Last month, football website Goal had an extremely strong month, finishing in their highest position to date. They’re still pretty high up in the rankings, but the new surprise contender last month was positivity-focussed site LittleThings. They increased their engagements by about 15 million in a single month to attract over 26 million engagements for the month. They seem to have especially benefitted from the inclusion of Reactions this time. Lots of their content uses emotion to draw engagement.

NBC also had a very strong month on Facebook. They had one of their best months in recent times, and some of the most engaged stories of August, with their coverage of the EpiPen price hike. The post got a serious bump when another NBC EpiPen story was shared from Bernie Sanders’ official Facebook page. Their Olympics coverage also drove up engagements, with their useful scheduling guide to every sport at the game proving a hit as people passed on to their friends on Facebook.

The BBC continue to increase their share of voice on Facebook. Their Olympics coverage was extremely popular last month, with 25 of their top 50 most engaged stories last month relating to the Rio games. Many of these focussed on unique and uplifting aspects of the games, as the top three results, as shown in Spike, illustrate:

BBC Olympics stories on Facebook

Rounding out the top ten are ESPN and the Daily Mail. While ESPN may have been missing from some of our previous rankings due to data issues, they establish themselves as a sports giant on social, with over 19 million engagements for the month of August.

The Washington Post will be very happy with their growth in engagements last month – up almost 25% from July. It’s not clear what might have contributed to such a jump, but its interesting to note that the Post are ‘all-in’ on Instant Articles.

Further down, USA Today jump back into the top 25 with over 10 million engagements for the month. US Political site Independent Journal Review also returned to the top 25, with almost 11 million engagements in August. These sites’ success came at the expense of ABC News and Bollywood Life, both of whom increased engagement, but dropped out of the top 25 due to the increased competition last month.

The Impact of Instant Articles

As for Instant Articles, Facebook Product Manager Fidji Simo revealed at the ONA conference last week that the readership levels on Instant Articles, particularly in markets like India and Latin America, are much higher than articles on mobile sites. But it appears to be a global trend. In America, the figure was put at as much as 25% more readership. Even though video is the current strongest performing format in news feeds, it looks as though Instant Articles are getting decent pick-up from readers as they become more widespread and familiar to Facebook users.

That could also help explain the continuing success of IndiaTimes.com, who came in at third place overall this month. Publishers are expected to keep 100% of revenue from Instant Articles going forward, while new features like 360 video are also expected to become part of the format.

While people are definitely watching and engaging with more video, text articles remain an important medium for publishers. The only challenge is correctly adapting those stories for the vast audience segment made up of mobile readers coming through the Facebook news feed.

This doesn’t just mean making articles shorter (Pew data shows that readers spend around twice as long on average engaging with articles over 1,000 words compared to short-form stories), but making the reading experience intuitive, easy and the content relevant. We’ll be watching how new sites move forward with the format, and if engagement stabilises over the next month or so.

The top 25 sites, with full data

Below are the top 25 sites last month, ranked by total engagements on stories published in August 2016. These numbers count all Facebook engagement on these sites’ links in August, including shares from publisher pages, copy-and-paste shares, and use of social sharing buttons on the websites themselves. As mentioned above, the numbers don’t include engagement on live or native videos.

If want to see the stories, videos and posts taking off on Facebook in real time, sign up for a free Spike trial today.

Top 25 sites on Facebook, August 2016

We strive for complete coverage – if you think our numbers could be improved, please let us know.

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