Exclusive NewsWhip data shows the 25 most engaged sites on Facebook in February 2018, with a new publisher at the top.
New data for engagement with publishers’ content on Facebook in February 2018 gives some insight into the state of social publishing after the news feed’s latest algorithm changes.
While some viral sites in the top 25 most engaged sites for the month did decline in overall engagement with web content, there were also a number of sites that managed to grow their overall engagements during February.
Here’s what happened during the month:
- On the back of breaking news coverage, NBC overtook Fox News to become the most engaged publisher on the platform, for the first time since January 2017
- CNN makes strong gains to more than double its engagement in a single month, coming in second overall
- Large publishers posting less/more to their main pages in the wake of Facebook’s algorithm changes
As ever, it’s worth noting 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. Ranked in order of total likes, comments, shares, and reactions on web content published in February 2018, these were the month’s top ten sites:
The first item worth noting is that NBC takes over the top spot, from Fox News. Included in NBC’s number for these rankings are engagements with all content from NBC affiliate sites, such as ABC7.com, and Today.com.
As such, the NBC network, like Fox, is a significant social publishing force, posting just under 50,000 English language articles in February alone.
Reposts from of viral from local NBC affiliates helps boost the overall engagement rate, putting the network in the position of being able to carefully monitor stories that could potentially have a greater national or international resonance, and boost them from their main pages.
While Fox News fell to third overall, with a drop of around two million engagements, it was CNN’s performance during the month that warrants attention. The publisher had an explosive increase in engagements on its web content during February.
Back in January, CNN was the 16th most engaged site on Facebook overall, seeing just 12.1 million interactions. The site’s most popular content on Facebook in February centred heavily around the Parkland High School shooting, and coverage of the aftermath and subsequent developments. All of the site’s top ten most engaging stories of the month related to the shooting, whether through coverage of the breaking news itself, political responses, or follow-ups relating to companies and organisations.
As this graph from NewsWhip Analytics illustrates, engagement with CNN content shot up significantly on February 2018, the day of the attack. This month’s data suggests that going forward, the dominance of major sites with network abilities and scale in breaking news events looks likely to continue to be consolidated on social media:
Elsewhere, the Washington Post managed to increase its engagements to consolidate a top ten position, while political publisher the Hill returned to the top ten, with over 16.3 million interactions over the month.
Interestingly, a cohort of top publishers in the 12m to 20m monthly engagements category seem to have had their numbers decline somewhat from January to February, although it’s unclear if this is directly due to the algorithmic changes over that timeframe.
Overall, the most engaging stories of the month related to the Parkland High School shooting and the Winter Olympics. There were some unusual additions — a story about the sighting of a rare bird in Alabama proved to be one of the most popular stories across the platform in February.
Big birding news!You've probably seen a red cardinal. But this cardinal has a genetic mutation that causes its feathers to be yellow instead of red.
Impact of the Facebook algorithm changes
February is the first full month of data for social publishing since the Facebook algorithm was tweaked to reward more ‘meaningful’ interactions in news feeds.
There has been plenty of reporting around the algorithm change in the last few weeks, with data and reports indicating that some sites have suffered significantly from the changes. What’s less clear has been the extent to which the changes have impacted publishers’ social media strategies and their overall approach to using Facebook as a distribution channel for their content.
One of the metrics that might help indicate how publishers have been reacting to potentially less reach and engagement is the volume of posts on their main Facebook pages. Using NewsWhip Analytics, it’s possible to pinpoint post volume from specific pages over any time period, providing granular insight into how the evolving strategies of various publishers have affected their engagement rates.
Looking at the top three sites’ main Facebook Pages (NBC News, CNN and Fox News) from October to February, here’s how the number of link posts changed in that time:
We see that the overall number of posts being posted by Fox News and CNN remained relatively stable, but NBC News decided to significantly increase the number of links posted on its main page in early January. And yet, the engagements on those posts differ for all publishers, as this graph shows.
While Fox and CNN kept their post count fairly consistent over the time period, both saw a gradual decline in overall engagements since early October, before recovering slightly in February.
Meanwhile, NBC’s engagement count on links to the main NBC News Facebook page saw very little growth in interactions, despite posting significantly more links. This reinforces one piece of advice that social media editors who see their engagement falling should keep in mind: simply posting more stuff mightn’t necessarily help turn things around.
Away from the top three sites, it does appear that certain sites have seen their engagement rates decline in the last few months more severely than others, however.
Top of that list are viral-focussed publishers including LittleThings (which closed this month), and Bored Panda, which declined from 30 million plus engagements last September, to around 8 million last month.
Back in December, we also pointed to the rise of two Indian viral sites in the top 25 rankings, Laughing Colors and Providr. Just two months later, both sites have dropped far out of the top 25, with 4.8m and 3.5m engagements during February, respectively. Such are the potential pitfalls of over-reliance on individual channels, regardless of their scale.
Going forward, publishers that maintain successful strategies on Facebook will likely have a multi-pronged approach to content distribution, and an ability to quickly adapt strategies based on the data.
Facebook engagement data
Below are the top 25 sites in February, ranked by total Facebook engagements on stories published that month. These numbers count all Facebook engagement on these sites’ links in January, including shares from publisher pages, copy-and-paste shares, and use of social sharing buttons on the websites themselves. Importantly, the numbers do not 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.