The most engaged German publishers on Facebook

By   |   March 14th, 2017   |   Reading time: 4 minutes Digital Journalism

We looked at the German sites attracting the most engagement on their articles on Facebook in February 2017. 

Our recent rankings of the most engaged English language sites on Facebook showed growth in engagement with news content for publishers. The aftermath of the US election meant that many news publishers saw significant increases in engagement with their political news and opinion stories.

We last analysed the most engaged German publishers on Facebook early last year. Since then, there’s been a number of changes in the composition of the top ten sites.

Using NewsWhip Analytics, we looked at how the picture has changed. These were the top ten German publishers on Facebook in February, ranked by total engagements on the content they published that month:

Top German Sites On Facebook, February 2017

The first thing to note is the more subdued level of engagement, compared with our English language rankings. It’s important to note that these rankings do not include engagements with native content such as live videos.

National news site BILD are on top, with over 3.3 million engagements for the month on their articles. They managed over 3.3 million engagements on their content in February, putting them comfortably as the most engaged German site on Facebook. They saw one of the highest levels of engagement growth of all the sites in these rankings (see chart below).

In an interview with BILD’s social media team on this blog last year, they explained the site’s ‘go niche’ strategy on social media, which aims to reach readers interested in specific topics, such as football team news or cooking. This is a strategy we’ve seen work well for publishers in the past few months.

Last time we looked at the German picture, we noted the strength of the performance of legacy, or traditional, publishers. That’s still largely the case, with some of the best-known newspapers in the country dominating Facebook news feeds, but there is some movement from digital natives, with strong growth from the Epoch Times and Der Postillon in particular.

Of all sites featured in these rankings, Focus have easily the largest article count and output. Die Welt have been attracting attention through their use of the reply function in the comments section of their Facebook page.

Satirical news site Der Postillon has been achieving notable success on Facebook. They had a number of stories in the most shared list from Germany last month, including a satirical take on Donald Trump’s February press conference (69,000 engagements). Much like the Onion, Der Postillon focusses much of its attention on parodying real current news events and stories. While many readers might skim or scroll past a breaking news headline, a humorous take is much more likely to get social media users’ attention.

Another real winner in these rankings is the German edition of the Epoch Times, a global news site with Chinese ownership. The site had over 940,000 Facebook engagements on its German language content in February, up around 45% since February 2016. Their coverage of political issues in Europe appear to have been particularly popular for their Facebook readers.

Finally, sports site Sport1 have had a huge impact on social feeds in the last year. Their large Facebook fan base is a hive of sports fans dissecting the latest results and sports news.

Overall growth for publishers

While growth in content engagement for German publishers on Facebook hasn’t been as dramatic as we’ve recorded with English language sites in the last few months, there has certainly been an impressive level of growth and engagement overall.

Here’s how five of the top sites increased their engagement from February 2016 to February 2017:

German Publishers’ Facebook Engagement Growth

Despite the positive year-on-year growth, it seems as though some of the top German sites saw declines in their monthly engagements for a period in 2016. Here’s what BILD, Focus and Welt’s Facebook engagement rates looked like over the course of the year, according to NewsWhip Analytics:

German publishers on Facebook

You can see a significant dip in shares, likes and comments from May onwards, before a significant growth again a few months later. While it’s tough to single out any exact reason for the sudden drop, the data illustrates the importance for publishers in staying on top of their social engagement metrics.

German publishers are already showing innovation in their use of audience data. A pool of leading German sites came together last year to pool masses of anonymised user data in order to get a better understanding of audience behaviour, a forward-thinking concept that they will be hoping pays dividends.

Get a holistic view of your site’s social media performance with NewsWhip Analytics


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