The most engaged stories that shaped 2019

January 16, 2020

Written by Katherine K. Ellis
News essentials: stories that shaped 2019

Last year, over 147 million articles were published on the web and generated a combined 32 billion engagements. So what made waves across social? 2019 was a mixed bag according to the most engaged stories, but out of all news published in 2019*, there were a few that reached stand out numbers and framed the narrative for the entire year. More than that, 2019 was a lesson in the power of local news to bring issues to a national audience.

Engagements to English language content in 2019

Engagements to all english language content in 2019

In order to measure which links to content would count as actual articles, we sorted through our database that tracks billions of stories and filtered by those that 1) published in English and 2) were not gifs, memes or photos of quotes. The result was a strange picture of what circulated the internet and resonated with audiences across the globe. *Update: This data reflects the engagements garnered within 30 days of a story’s publication to quantify breaking news impact and to ensure that articles that have been around longer don’t rank higher by virtue of their age.

Top 25 most engaged stories in 2019

The top 25 most engaged stories in 2019

When we look at the variety of stories that hit more than 2.5 million engagements throughout the year, what stands out is not only the mix of publishers, but the relatively small range of topics that seems to drive these kinds of numbers. 

In the top five for all of 2019, we have two amber alerts, both from local publisher Fox 32 Chicago. Both were shared millions of times on social platforms, with many people invested in the resolution of these stories. We have the biggest undercover dairy investigation that saw nearly 5 million engagements to their video, and a happy story from the New York Post covering Arkansas city paying homeless $9.25 an hour to clean up the city. To round out the top five, we saw a LinkedIn post of all things, generate 4.3 million engagements at the tail end of 2019. Published on December 11, Andrea Heuston’s “Never Apologize for Being a Strong Woman” was shared nearly 500k times on Facebook alone, and quickly rose to the top of the chart.

Not all of the top stories came from news organizations. In fact, throughout the top 25 most engaged stories, only nine traditional news sites had articles that were highly engaged. Instead, this chart gives us a fuller picture of what the Internet generally was looking for throughout 2019.

There were several posts focusing on “good news,” for example: number(s) 7, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, and 24 highlighted many of the good things happening in the world and were rewarded with high engagement. Only three were overtly political in nature and the one outlier comes from While media heavily reported on deaths related to vaping last year, became the 8th most engaged weblink in all of 2019. People were trying desperately to get information about what was happening and whether or not they should be worried about vaping. Two attorneys in Texas set up this site and traffic to it went through the roof as the stories about vaping deaths kept coming.

Other notable moments from 2019 were ‘90210’ Star Luke Perry’s sudden death that garnered 3.5 million engagements, the Notre Dame fire at 2.7 million, and a petition to revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU got 2.7 million.

Most engaged web link each month of 2019

Most engaged story each month in 2019

Finally, to see the year at a glance, we broke down which story was most engaged each month of 2019. Several stories appear here as well as the top 25 most engaged, but it offers a full picture of what memorable moments were top of mind for people throughout the year. As we head into 2020 and an election year, we expect to see a lot more political coverage in the round up next year, but hopefully also maintain the trend of good news sprinkled throughout.

If you’d like to track engagements to stories on your own, check out NewsWhip Analytics.

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Katherine K. Ellis

Katherine is a Content Strategist for NewsWhip working at the confluence of journalism and marketing.

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