A ranking of the most engaged websites on Facebook, with the top 25 sites and analysis.
January 2017 saw record levels of engagement with content for many sites on Facebook. Interest in political content and coverage shot upwards, as top sites like NBC, CNN and Fox capitalised on audience attention in news feeds.
March saw top publishers retain much of those high engagement levels of January, but with some reordering of sites. These were the main takeaways were for the data for the month:
– The Huffington Post regains its top position as the most engaged site on Facebook
– USA Today record a leap in engagements to finish in third place overall, their highest position to date
– Engagement with news, analysis and opinion content remains high.
These were the top ten sites last month, based on their total engagements with web-based content. The data comes from NewsWhip Analytics, our content analysis platform.
In March, the Huffington Post regained their top spot as the most engaged English language publisher on Facebook, with almost 35 million engagements. That’s a huge increase of almost 4 million interactions since January, and places the Huff Po well ahead of their nearest rivals. Specifically, the Huffington Post’s International Women’s Day coverage drew strong engagement throughout the month. Many Huffington Post opinion articles about women’s rights and related issues were particularly popular, attracting hundreds of thousands of interactions.
The site has also been experimenting with more niche pages to try and build smaller communities around specific topics.
Overall, there was slightly less engagement for top sites from January, when the inauguration of a new president resulted in increased engagement across the board for sites. 12 sites had over 15 million engagements during the month, compared to 17 in January.
As we noted on the blog recently, political coverage is currently providing a significant boost for publishers looking to reach social audiences. That proved particularly noticeable with the strong showing of The Hill and Occupy Democrats making significant gains to appear in the top 25 in March.
A particularly intriguing engagement battle is now also shaping up between three traditional leaders in the US newspapers market: the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today. In the last 12 months, each of these sites have managed to firmly consolidate their positions in the top ten.
Here’s how the three sites performed on Facebook over the last six months, with data from NewsWhip Analytics:
All three sites saw significant growth in their engagements from October to March, but there have been dips along the way. While the Washington Post and USA Today have been almost neck-and-neck for engagement since October, the Times has seen more dramatic fluctuations. For all, the January inauguration has proven to be a high point for engagement so far this year.
In third place overall, USA Today reach their highest position to date in these rankings. They had 26.7 million engagements in March, up almost 2 million engagements since January, leaping up five places. An article titled ‘Bad news for low-income college students in Trump 2017 budget’ was by far the site’s most shared story of the month, with hundreds of thousands of engagements on Facebook. That came from their dedicated ‘USA Today College’ vertical, which covers student affairs.
Another niche area of publishing that consistently performs strongly for USA Today is the ‘FTW’ section, which aims to bring sports coverage to a social-first audience.
For the Times, some of its news coverage was engaged with heavily in March, including coverage of the Westminster terrorist attacks and protests in Russia.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s ‘Wonkblog’ section proved very popular on Facebook in March, with stories about the US coal industry, spiders and poverty all appearing high in the site’s most shared stories list.
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Elsewhere, BuzzFeed performed very strongly in March to come in at sixth overall for their web content, with over 23.3 million engagements on their English language content last month. By far their most popular story in March was a quiz testing colour vision titled ‘Only People With Perfect Colour Vision Can Read These Words‘. With over 1.2 million engagements during the month, it was one of the most shared stories on the entire platform last month, and contributed a significant 5.5% of the site’s overall web engagements for the month.
In March, many Indian publishers also featured in the top 25 ranking. As well as India Times, which we recorded leading in engagements in December 2016, the sports site SportsKeeda also entered the rankings with 13.5 million engagements, while the entertainment focussed Bollywood Bubble also appeared in the top 25 for the first time.
What next for Facebook publishing?
At the F8 keynote yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg laid out an ambitious program for Facebook’s technology, with visual communication (included augmented reality) at the heart of things.
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on visual elements within the platform. With that news, publishers will be considering how best to make sure they’re staying relevant to their Facebook audience.
It seems clear that while there are opportunities for publishers to still reach vast audiences, there have been challenges for some sites in hitting the right mix of content formats to ensure visibility in news feeds. Our recent analysis showed that while link posts still make up the bulk of overall posts to top publishers pages, the average engagements for videos and images are significantly higher. Publishers that are able to leverage these storytelling formats appear to be best placed to capture attention in the future.
Below are the top 25 sites in March, ranked by total Facebook engagements on stories published that month. 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. Importantly, the numbers don’t include engagement on live or native videos.
To get full access to this data, and much more, sign up for a demo of NewsWhip Analytics today.