This week, we take a deeper look at the tactics, posts and record engagements for the top five viral publishers who consistently generate high numbers on Facebook.

Every month we track the most engaged publishers on Facebook, and every month, a handful of viral publishers beat out traditional news sites for a place in the top twenty. 

LADbible, UNILAD, 9gag, The Dodo and VT drive so much engagement on Facebook that even if you don’t recognize those names, there’s a high chance you’ve seen one of their videos. All things viral, meme-able, shareable, weird or heartwarming gets circulated on the platform through one of these publishers. As these publishers tend to provide an example to traditional publishers in how to approach social, we thought it worth taking a look at what, exactly, is working for them.


We analyzed all content pushed by these publishers from Jan. 1 to August 13, both on their Facebook Pages and websites.

The engagement is primarily to native content still. For example, engagements to LADbible’s website are less than half of what they see on their Facebook Page. UNILAD is similar, and after these two, engagement to websites drops even more significantly. 9GAG, The Dodo and VT all get at least 4x their prospective website engagement on their Facebook Pages, and there is where they focus the majority of their attention. These publishers aren’t necessarily trying to push people to their websites, recognizing their Facebook Pages are where those numbers come through.


As far as engagements to “articles” on their respective sites, all of the top ten broke 1 million engagements, but aside from one 9GAG story, LADbible and UNILAD dominated this year. Though LADbible purchased its viral arch-rival back in 2018, they are kept as separate business and the two giants are still circulating some of the Internet’s most-watched videos between them. When it comes to Facebook, engagements are spread across the top five, but LADbible still rules.


The top ten most engaged posts consisted of animals, babies, and…baby animals. Nothing else tugs at the heartstrings like tiny animals doing silly things. The most engaged post in 2019 so far, is a video of a doggo strapped to his owner’s chest, doin’ his best to help pedal a bike around. Clocking in at just under a minute, the video generated over a million likes, was shared more than 700k times, had nearly 200k comments, and seems to be one of the few things people on Facebook can agree on, as its Angrys and Sads combined didn’t even amount to 300 interactions. 

So what pushes these posts above the noise on Facebook? While they all focus solely on trending and viral content, links and videos make up the bulk of their posts, though the publishers have different strategies:


9GAG, for instance, leans into photos, filling a gap in viral content on Facebook, while the others are almost exclusively video.  99% of the photos posted to Facebook from these sites came from 9GAG, while its content only made up 13% of total native video. VT and LADbible were close in terms of the sheer volume of videos posted to the platform since the beginning of the year, with 6,264 and 4,154 respectively. There was no correlation between video length and number of engagements, which we dug into earlier this year, offering further proof people will engage, as long as content resonates with them.

Because these viral publishers tend to feature happy, tiny beings, their engagements are usually quite positive. With a high number of Shares, Likes, Loves, these Pages create a nice place to land in the current news cycle, particularly on Facebook.

Even more than typical reactions, these posts consistently get a lot of comments. The top 10 most commented posts this year had a few overlaps with the above, but was more evenly split between baby, animals and adult humans. Apart from a man just livin’ in 3019, a trippy makeup look, and a sad day at work, the rest featured your expected pets and babies.


So what can traditional publishers glean from these insights? How might these tactics improve engagement for other publishers?

  1. First things first, content. While not every article or post can feature a baby or animal or the double-threat: a baby animal, pets and relatable stories go a long way on Facebook. Most of the content that does well for these publishers is highly positive and appeals to a wide audience.
  2. Another interesting insight, 97% of the top 100 most engaged posts from these publishers used emoji in their descriptions of the posts. Only 3% did not. They show emotion and give people an idea of whether or not the video is going to be funny or sad or have a monkey in it. Whatever the affiliation with the emoji, it’s working for them.
  3. Manage expectations from your audience. Everyone knows what to expect from these publishers and have followed because they look forward to seeing the posts. Consistently delivering content that resonates allows your audience to expect this type of content and further, engage with it. 

If you’d like to start tracking your own engagements over time on Facebook, take a look at NewsWhip Analytics

Katherine Ellis

Katherine is a Content Strategist working at the confluence of journalism + marketing. She's most interested in bridging the gap between business and editorial and exploring ways publishers can use data to inform their storytelling.

Email Katherine via katherine.ellis@newswhip.com.

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