How often do the same stories succeed in different publications?

June 14, 2018

Written by Benedict Nicholson

It’s WhipSmart today so we’ve been a little busy, but we didn’t want to leave you without a blog to tide you over in the meantime, so we did a quick analysis of publishers’ content for May to spot some general trends and see how much cross-coverage there is across the range.

We looked at the ten most engaged stories from May 1st to May 25th for six of the biggest publishers in the English speaking world. This list included the BBC, CNN, FOX, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

How much crossover is there between publishers? 

The simple answer to this is that there really isn’t all that much cross-coverage between the biggest news organizations. We’ve highlighted some of the stories that did get covered by multiple outlets in some of the charts below by bolding them.

As you’ll see, it was a rare thing for dramatically similar content to achieve success with each publisher. Of the 60 stories we looked at, only five were even similar at a surface-level, and even fewer were extremely similar in terms of their content.

These five story themes that did cross publishing lines were as follows:

  • The Oklahoma City shooting,
  • The Santa Fe school shooting,
  • The banning of NFL players kneeling at the anthem,
  • The settling of a racial discrimination lawsuit against Starbucks for one dollar,
  • The on-again off-again talks between North Korea and the U.S./South Korea.

You could arguably include the various developments in the Special Counsel investigation in this group, though this was not really one single story, but rather an evolving story over the course of the month.

Most of the engagements, and indeed most of the posts, came with stories that were unique to the publisher, with the obvious exceptions of the above.

If there’s a lesson here, it’s this: There is a difference between news that breaks organically and news that a certain newsroom breaks in terms of what gets a story unique attention.

When a story breaks that nobody knew was coming, and you could argue that all of the five above were unpredicted events, then we often see success across multiple outlets all covering the same thing, in a similar way.

If, however, it is the result of an investigative report by a newsroom, that then gets a headstart on other newsrooms, as we saw with CNN’s post about Morgan Freeman, or the New York Times breaking the news that President Trump intended to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Once this advantage has been achieved, although other outlets may cover it, they may never see the same levels of engagement to the story. This goes to show the continued power of being first to a story and of investigative reporting as a driver of engagement.

General trends to note from May 

Beyond the crossover posts themselves, it is worth noting a few general trends in the content.
Unsurprisingly the political was a big driver of engagements for most of these publishers, especially for the New York Times and the Washington Post. President Trump featured heavily across the board, with other politicians such as Bernie Sanders and John McCain also making appearances in the top content.

Another couple of themes to be drawn out were race and violence. Both of these tended to drive a number of engagements.

Violence featured across a number of publications, mainly coverage of school shootings, but also with some coverage of Palestinians killed protesting against Israel.

Race also featured, with numerous examples of the police being called on people of color for no apparent reason.

The final content theme to be heavily featured was the one-off event of the Royal Wedding in the United Kingdom. Both Fox News and the BBC featured coverage of the regal nuptials, but the BBC went particularly heavy on the event, unsurprisingly. Indeed, posts about the build-up, the wedding, and the aftermath made up four of the top ten stories for the BBC for the time period, with a smattering of officially approved photos the top story for the day.

Interestingly, though, the Royal Wedding was not the BBC’s most engaged story of the period, but rather one about Malaysia going into its elections, which just goes to show that successful content is often anything but predictable.

If we broaden the range beyond the top ten for this time period, the most engaged of this small group was Fox News, with over 30 million engagements, followed by CNN and the New York Times. In terms of average engagements, CNN performed the best, with an average of 4,652 engagements.

The Wall Street Journal was at the back of the pack, with an engagement of just 2 million for the time period, but their relatively niche share of the market always makes them worth examining in comparison with the front runners.

To understand which stories are the most engaging for you against your competitors, take a free demo of NewsWhip Spike.

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Benedict Nicholson

In addition to leading the NewsWhip Research Center in New York, Benedict Nicholson manages partnerships with internationally recognized media outlets furthering data journalism, which includes NewsWhip’s Data for Democracy program. Benedict also facilitates consultations with communicators from the top 10 public relations agencies across America and Europe and with Fortune 500 brands to discuss consumer engagement trends and effective media monitoring. Email Benedict via

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