We look at the most engaged sites on Facebook in April 2018, and analyse the top 25 publishers that are getting the most out of their content on Facebook.
What sites had the most Facebook attention on their web content in April?
March saw a significant shake-up in Facebook rankings of the biggest publishers, with some of the more established names growing their monthly engagements substantially.
There was a significant increase in engagements for the top publishers on Facebook between February and March, with total engagements for the top ten sites’ content rising by 27.75 percent. Winners mostly included mainstream news sites, such as CNN, which overtook Fox News as the most engaged site of the month, and the New York Times, which increased its engagements by 9.3 million. Engagement increases were seen mainly for mainstream news publishers, rather than for entertainment or viral publishers.
So, did the engagement boom last for these sites into April?
The short answer is no. Engagement rates dropped for most of the sites that experienced significant increases in interactions from February to March, with leaders such as CNN and NBC falling back, but still achieving higher engagement rates than in February. However, the changes didn’t affect all sites equally. Fox News, which saw smaller gains compared to rivals during March, increased its engagement haul by around 2 million in April, landing it back in top position.
Here were three of the main takeaways from the data in April:
– The Fox News network regained its position as the leading publisher on Facebook in April 2018, with over 30 million interactions on its articles
– After a significant engagement increase for most sites on the list in March, practically all of the top 25 sites saw decreases in engagement in April
– Despite efforts to combat the spread of disinformation, fake news stories still reach the tops of the most shared stories lists
These were the top ten sites in April, based on total engagements (likes, comments, shares, and reactions) on web-based content published that month. Engagements with native content such as Live videos are not included.
Fox’s return to the top spot on the platform is based on the engagement with its huge network of regional and national news sites, publishing over 47,000 stories in April alone. Fox’s story on the death of actor R. Lee Ermey was one of the most engaging stories of the month on Facebook, with over 1 million interactions.
Elsewhere, the Daily Mail was one of the few top ten publishers that grew its engagements from March to April, by around 500,000 interactions. Interestingly, most of the site’s most popular stories each month are now US-focussed, signalling the growing popularity of the UK-based site in the US digital publishing market.
IndiaTimes.com, an English language news and entertainment site focussed on India, grew its engagements slightly during the month, from 11.1 million to 12 million. Given other sites’ decreases, it was enough to see the site jump from 16th to 11th spot overall, thanks to coverage of a range of topics from cricket news to celebrity gossip and breaking news.
Further down the chart, US broadcaster NPR seems to consolidated its position high in the rankings, coming in in 13th position overall. The site also had some of the most engaging stories of the month on Facebook, including a very popular piece titled ‘High-Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty, While High School Grads Line Up For University’ (1.1 million engagements), which sparked a lively conversation in the comments.
In March, one of the main losers during the engagement shake-up were entertainment and viral-focussed publishers, which did not see the same increases as large news sites.
In April, these sites made something of a recovery, or at least did not fall out of the picture any more than in March. They included sites such as Lad Bible and Unilad, as well as political publishers such as Western Journalism and the Daily Wire, all which retained their spots in the top 25 sites.
Fake news and continued Facebook testing?
Facebook’s commitment to combating fake news and disinformation on the platform has been clearly stated in the last few weeks.
However, despite the recent algorithm changes that seem to have reduced the engagement rates for many long-established clickbait sites, data for April suggests that there are still numerous websites that are thriving with one-off viral hits on Facebook. A look at the most engaging stories of the month shows a string of sites with URLs such as viralhatch.com, yournewswire.com, awarenessact.com and even fbnewspost.com, all of which saw hundreds of thousands of engagements on dubious stories.
Each of these sites appears to have just one or two real viral hits which spread rapidly on news feeds, with little to no engagement on other stories, or new content on their pages. They were simply able to set up a new domain, publish some sensational story, and spread it on Facebook using inflammatory language.
Looking at reports in the last few weeks, it appears as though Facebook is still testing to try and firmly establish what constitutes ‘meaningful engagement’. First, it seems as though Facebook may be testing some kind of Reddit-style comment voting system, which would allow readers to more clearly signal their view of certain discussion threads.
WOAH…! Facebook is rolling out its Reddit-style Up / Down votes for comments
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) April 29, 2018
At the F8 conference this week, Mark Zuckerberg also outlined how the platform was beginning to rank news sites based on trustworthiness, and would promote or demote reach on that basis. The impact of such a move could have repercussions for smaller publishers in particular, but it’s hard to tell how widespread the impact may be. It seems as though further fluctuations in engagement rates on the platform are to be expected.
Full Facebook engagement data
Below are the top 25 sites in April, ranked by total Facebook engagements on stories published that month.
These numbers count all Facebook engagement on these sites’ links in April, 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. Due to a deprecation of some feeds this past month, BuzzFeed wasn’t included in this month’s rankings.
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