We look at the most engaged sites on Facebook in July 2018, and analyse the top 25 publishers that are getting the most out of their content on Facebook.
With the midpoint of 2018 now gone, publishers and social media watchers generally will be eager to get an understanding of what the year has meant for social publishing generally.
What’s different to what we were seeing in news feeds and timelines 12 months ago? Which sites have thrived, and which have suffered? As ever, NewsWhip’s exclusive data tracing the engagement performance of leading sites’ web content provides some sense of direction.
In June, we saw that engagement levels for publishers were increasing again after some declines earlier in the year. We also recorded a large number of stories from questionable sources going viral, despite efforts to clamp down on such content from Facebook.
In July’s data, we see that the engagement growth is certainly continuing for top publishers.
Sites such as Fox News, the Daily Mail, and the BBC all saw strong growth in interactions on their web-based stories last month. Elsewhere, smaller sites such as Lad Bible grew their interaction count significantly, suggesting that engagement with viral-focussed content hasn’t entirely dissipated on Facebook.
On the content side, some stories dominated news feeds in July. The dramatic rescue of a young football team from a cave in Thailand was omnipresent on news feeds, as well as updates on the World Cup, which concluded mid-way through the month.
These were some of the most noteworthy items from the data in July:
- Fox News retained its top position, with 38.6 million engagements, and increased its lead over second-placed CNN.
- The Daily Mail and the BBC both made significant gains in engagement to come in at third and fourth overall, up from June.
- Large increases in comments amongst top publishers suggest that these interactions are growing in use with audiences.
These were the top ten sites in July, based on total engagements (likes, comments, shares, and reactions) on web-based content published that month. As usual in these rankings, engagements with native content such as Live videos are not included.
Fox News and its affiliates grew engagements by around 6 million from June to July to come in first place.
In July, most of the site’s most popular stories included political news covered from a conservative perspective, along with breaking news. The network has now increased its monthly engagements with web content on Facebook by 10 million interactions since March.
Fox’s performance comes at a time when Facebook’s push into TV-style news programming via its Watch feature heavily involves Fox in its content. As a Slate article on the topic notes, that’s possibly at least partly due to the publisher’s continued success amongst its audience in the news feed.
Despite declining in engagements overall compared to June, CNN did enough to maintain the second spot in the rankings.
The Daily Mail had one of its strongest performances on Facebook in a while, with over 30 million interactions in total on its stories. While the Mail’s online edition does publish a huge volume of stories each month (59,000 in July, comparable to some networked sites such as Fox and NBC), the vast majority, many of which are ‘wire stories’, do not see high levels of engagement.
Instead, the site’s biggest stories of the month went super viral. One, titled ‘McDonald’s worker body-slams customer who threw a milkshake over her’, saw more than 5.5 million interactions alone, after it was shared from a range of pages. Perhaps significantly, more than 1.5 million of those engagements were comments, likely boosting its significance in light of Facebook’s emphasis on content that stimulates conversation among users.
After the Daily Mail, BBC News had a notable jump in interactions to grow from 17.8 million in June to 30.4 million in July.
The reasons for the site’s engagement growth in July can at least partly be attributed to some major international news stories which unfolded during the month. The site’s coverage of the discovery of the missing Thai footballers on July 2 attracted 1.2 million interactions on Facebook alone. It’s a notably strong performance from a leading social news publisher with a huge footprint on the platform.
Following NBC in the fifth spot, on 29.5 million interactions, there’s a bit of a fall-off to the next set of sites. They include the New York Times, Huffington Post and Washington Post.
Another notable change in the rankings during July saw two UK-based sites, Lad Bible and UNILAD, make strong gains to land at 14th and 9th respectively. Both sites published by far the least number of articles during July of the top 25 sites (see table below), but managed to achieve success with smaller numbers of hugely viral stories.
Further down the chart, there were a number of changes in the order of the rankings, with Western Journalism, NPR, USA Today and others all declining in engagements.
The role of comments
Since the Facebook algorithm change took effect in January, much has been written about the increased importance of ‘meaningful interactions’, the key to which appeared to be comments. Comments are seen as stronger indicators of interest and noteworthiness than more passive interactions, such as likes.
In research published on this blog in February, we looked at the type of content that tends to attract more comments, and found that “link posts that attract high levels of comments are often political or controversial in nature.” As the post explained:
“Getting users to comment on stories on Facebook is down to a combination of factors. Stories in the news feed can attract different volumes of interactions, based on their topic or theme, and visual content attracts by far the highest proportions of engagements overall. It’s also true that some sites are using Facebook’s comments plugin. However… the overwhelming majority of commenting happens on Facebook itself.”
July’s data offers some insight into the current situation with comments on web-based links from the top publishers.
Leading sites in the rankings, such as Fox, are now attracting millions of comments on their linked articles each month, at a notably higher rate than shares.
Indeed, all the top 25 sites in this ranking for July had more comments on their content than shares.
Some of the most ‘viral’ sites, such as Lad Bible and UNILAD, recorded more than double the number of comments over shares. While some of these comments almost certainly include a large percentage of ‘share comments’, the numbers are still notable.
How much of this is algorithmically driven is also difficult to ascertain, but the metrics are certainly worth examining in closer detail for social media managers.
Full Facebook engagement data
Below are the top 25 sites in July, ranked by total Facebook engagements on stories published that month.
These numbers count all Facebook engagement on these sites’ links in July, 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.