March 2020 has seen huge engagement across the board for publishers on Facebook. We broke down the numbers in our latest ranking.

The month of March has been unprecedented in terms of engagement to web content, mainly due to the COVID-19 outbreak and coverage around that. 

Once again, we used our API to gather these rankings, which you can read about on our developer hub. This analysis includes English-language content from publishers, ranked by Facebook likes, shares, and comments to their web content, ranked by domain. Additionally, these rankings do not include media natively uploaded to a Facebook Page, such as a Facebook video.

Here are some of the highlights: 

  • There were unprecedented levels of engagement across almost all of the top publishers, with all of the top ten getting engagement numbers that would have put them at the top of the list just a few months ago
  • The Daily Mail was the top publisher, and broke 100 million engagements on Facebook for the month
  • NBC News and CNN were also close to the 100 million mark, but fell just short

Let’s take a closer look.

Top ten publishers on Facebook in March 2020

The top publisher by a considerable distance was The Daily Mail, who saw 120 million engagements to their web content on Facebook for the month of March.

The top ten most engaged web publishers on Facebook in March 2020, ranked by engagement

Not far behind were NBC News and CNN, both of whom were above 90 million engagements for the month. 

Engagement fell away a little past these big three, with the New York Times and BBC both clocking in at around 70 million engagements. 

For all of the publishers, unsurprisingly the top narrative was coronavirus, but let’s look a little closer at the specifics.

The Daily Mail’s most engaged article was a piece about the death of country music star Kenny Rogers, which garnered 4.6 million engagements. Though the singer died of natural causes, it was tangential to coronavirus coverage, as the virus meant that a proper funeral was not able to be held. 

The rest of the top ten contained coronavirus stories from all around the world, from China, to Italy, to the US. The only non-coronavirus story in their top ten was about a rare white giraffe being killed by poachers in Kenya, with 2.74 million engagements. 

For NBC, the top article was about the stimulus bill failing to pass immediately in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell blaming Democrats for “obstruction”. This was the third most engaged article of the month overall, and saw 5.6 million total engagements. NBC had several very highly engaged articles, with four of the top fifteen total coming from the publisher. All of NBC’s ten most engaged articles were about coronavirus or the response to it. 

CNN’s top article was about Scholastic offering free access to online courses for kids stuck at home due to the coronavirus outbreak, which received more than 1.7 million engagements. There were some positive stories among the most engaged, including Dyson designing and distributing new ventilators, and the FDA approving a new test, which both saw more than 1.4 million engagements.

Where normally we see two or three of the top articles for the top three publishers receive over a million engagements, this time all ten did for NBC and The Daily Mail, and nine of the top ten did for CNN. 

Let’s look at the top articles more broadly. 

The top articles on Facebook in March 2020 

The top article came from Texas Memes, and was a celebration of the number of people that had so far recovered from COVID-19 around the world at the time of posting. This received more than 12 million engagements. 

Chart showing the 15 most engaged articles on Facebook in March 2020, ranked by engagement

The top article from a mainstream publication was from The Washington Post, and was their famous visualization of flattening the curve using different approaches and scenarios. This was ubiquitous across social media for a couple of weeks, and received more than six million engagements on Facebook alone. 

The deaths of Kenny Rogers and Joe Diffie were major themes among the top articles, as were some of the responses to the coronavirus, mainly in the US.

Beyond the mainstream news, there were a number of meme-like posts about religion or uplifting news. These are designed to be highly shareable, and timeless, so they continue to accrue high engagement long after initial publication, which is why we see such high numbers for them. 

The top 25 publishers on Facebook in March 2020 

The chart below shows the top 25 publishers of March, ranked by engagement, alongside the total number of articles written.

Chart showing the top 25 publishers on Facebook in March 2020, ranked by engagement

We see most of the usual suspects here, with not too much movement since we last checked in in January. 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this list is the total number of engagements across the top 25. In January, which was a higher month for engagement than we had seen for some time, the top 25 publishers totaled 764 million engagements on Facebook, while in March of 2019 that number totaled 556 million

In March of this year, that had risen to a colossal 1.3 billion. Engagement to web content really was unprecedented last month, and it was the big, traditional publishers that benefited most. 

If you want to track the top stories and publishers yourself, check out NewsWhip Spike.