Who stood out among UK publishers for engagements to web content in September 2018? We took a look at the data to find out. 

In continuing our tradition of acknowledging that our rankings of the overall engagements to web content can be a little US centric, although admittedly slightly less so recently with the continued rise of the Lad Bible and UNILAD.

Either way, we decided now would be a good time to revisit the rankings we did of country-specific publishers, and this time we are just focusing on UK publishers.

When we looked last time we saw that the Daily Mail and the BBC were well ahead of the game in terms of engagements to their web content, with the Daily Mail driving a spectacular 25 million engagements thanks in part to one viral story that drove almost one fifth of their total number of interactions.

As you may have guessed from reading our general rankings, this time around was a little different. 

The top UK publishers in September 2018 

The main thing of note is the way the Lad Bible and UNILAD have shot up the table, moving from an already impressive level of engagement of around 8 million engagements each in June to 29 million and 32 million engagements respectively, dominating all of the traditional UK publishers except the BBC.

This suggests a simultaneous pivot in strategy from both publishers, with more of a concentration on web links than the native Facebook content that brought the viral publishers to prominence in the first place, and it has clearly paid off, as evidenced by the 4x increase in engagements to web content in a three month period.

The rest of the top ten remains largely the same, with The Sun and Manchester Evening News falling out of the rankings to be replaced by The Metro and Sky.

In terms of notable movers in the top ten, The Guardian garnered three million more engagements in September than in June, moving from 10 to 13 million, while the Daily Mail went down around 4 million, though this is easily explainable by the one viral story that had driven around five million engagements in June.

In terms of the top content, this was unsurprisingly dominated by UNILAD and the Lad Bible. The top story came from UNILAD and was about Jack Black getting a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Between them, the viral sites made up eight of the top ten stories for the month, with only the BBC’s story on a same-sex marriage ruling in India and the Daily Mail’s story on George W. Bush sneaking candy to Michelle Obama during John McCain’s funeral breaking the pattern.

There are some themes we can draw out from the top stories here, and that is that they tend to involve either emotion or humor in some way; something of a modus operandi for viral websites. At least three of the top stories are designed to tug at the heartstrings, while at least four are comedic articles in some way or another.

The only exception to this rule from the viral sites is the story about Kaepernick being sponsored by Nike, but even this is an article that provokes some kind of emotion, depending upon what side of the debate people fall on. Interestingly, this article generated the most comments of any story in September, and a significantly higher proportion of comments than other stories in the top ten, with over one-third of its engagements coming from comments. 

The top UK Facebook native content in September 2018 

So that was the web publishers, let’s now have a look at who was doing well on Facebook with native content.

Unsurprisingly, we once again see UNILAD and Lad Bible doing very well with content from their Facebook Pages. Given that a good deal of engagement to their web links came from their own Facebook Pages, this makes perfect sense.

Beyond those two, we do see some more variance in which Pages did well in the UK for the month of September.

We see more sports pages generally in the native Facebook rankings, with two soccer teams actually appearing in the top ten, and three further sports publishers appearing in the rankings.

The BBC is perhaps the most interesting one to note here, with only 6 million engagements to its Facebook native content. This shows just how reliant the publisher is on dark social for driving engagements to its web content, because it is certainly not its owned Facebook Page that is driving the engagement. If anything, this shows just how ingrained the BBC is as a news source in the UK’s public consciousness.

The top posts on Facebook for the UK were all native video, so although we have seen a rise in other types of post recently, especially photos, videos not going away yet. The top three posts all came from The Daily Mail.

Once again, we can tie these themes into a few bundles, from the cute to the funny to the emotional, and all of these ten stories fit into at least one of those categories.

So what did we learn from looking at the successful UK publishers for September 2018? Here are some takeaways:

  • UNILAD and Lad Bible quadrupled their engagement since June, to put them as two of the top three publishers in the UK.
  • The top ten has been fairly constant since June with only two new faces in the rankings
  • The emotional and the funny does well across the board, both on web and Facebook

Want to see what’s going viral right now? Take a tour of NewsWhip Spike

Benedict Nicholson

Benedict Nicholson is the Managing Editor at NewsWhip. An Englishman in New York, he is interested in the intersection of PR, brands, and journalism, and the trends and innovation around that.

Email Benedict via benedict.nicholson@newswhip.com.