Politics were sharply in focus last month, as the debates and the election rapidly approached, and that is reflected in our September publisher rankings on Facebook.

As usual, 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 key takeaways for this month.

  • Engagement fell across the board among the top publishers
  • Politics dominated the top stories, and was responsible for almost all of the top 15 articles
  • The Daily Wire retained its place as the most engaged publisher on Facebook for the third consecutive month 

Let’s look a little deeper.

The top publishers on Facebook in September 2020

The Daily Wire stayed at the top of the rankings for the third month in a row in September, though with a considerably lower level of engagement than it achieved in August.

The engagement level for the Daily Wire fell from more than 100 million in August to just under 80 million in September, though this still put it some 10% higher than any of the other top publishers. Fox News, who came second in September, also saw a slight drop, but it was a much less significant one, falling from 78 million engagements to 71 million month over month.

By maintaining roughly the same level of engagement at 63 million, the Daily Mail rose up the rankings from fifth to third, as almost every publisher around them lost ground in the intervening month.

CNN had among the biggest drops of the top publishers in terms of interactions, falling a third from 75 million to 50 million.

So, what articles were successful for these top publishers?

Politics was a driver of engagement across the board, so it’s no surprise to see it particularly so for the Daily Wire. Their top article, and the only one from them to get more than a million engagements, was about the first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden at the end of September. It offered aggregated criticisms from conservative voices on social media of debate moderator Chris Wallace, garnering 1.2 million engagements on Facebook.

Other top articles from the publisher included Nancy Pelosi’s haircut controversy (912k interactions), John Legend saying he might leave America if Trump was re-elected (805k), and Scott Walker criticizing Kamala Harris (645k). 

On Fox News, the top article was about President Trump’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian official. This article received 2.4 million engagements on Facebook. They had similar success with coverage of Nancy Pelosi’s salon visit, with both the original article (1.7 million), and Pelosi’s response (1.8 million) performing very well in terms of engagement. Interestingly, each of the top six articles for Fox News had more engagement than the Daily Wire’s top story, despite the publisher having fewer engagements overall.

The Daily Mail moved back into the top three thanks in part to highly engaged coverage of a man winning custody of his daughter, which received two million engagements on Facebook. Articles for the Mail tended to have a less political focus overall, with narratives such as an elephant being freed in Pakistan (510k), and the deaths of Helen Reddy (627k) and Dame Diana Rigg (483k) both featuring in the ten most engaged articles.

Once again though, relatively few of these made up the top articles overall, with only a couple of the top Fox News articles making the 15 most engaged overall.

The most engaged articles on Facebook in September 2020

The most engaged article by a considerable distance was NPR’s piece on the death of pioneering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Chart showing the top tech articles of the last year in the BBC

This piece received more than 10 million articles on Facebook, with almost double the engagement of anything else that month, making it one of the top half-dozen articles of the year to date. CNN also had a piece on her passing with engagement over three million.

The Atlantic’s piece on Trump reportedly calling Americans who died in war ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’, also received huge engagement, with nearly seven million, while the New York Times’s landmark investigation into President Trump’s taxes was their most engaged of the year with 5.3 million.

Three Fox News articles featured in the top fifteen, as did the top Daily Mail article, but beyond those none of the top articles from the top three publishers made the list. A satirical article from the Babylon Bee on NBA players wearing lace collars to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a notable addition to the list of top articles, with more than 2 million engagements.

The top 25 websites of September 2020

Below are the top 25 publishers on Facebook for the month of September, ranked by their total engagement on the platform.

Chart showing the most engaged tech articles of the last year

Perhaps the most notable detail here is just how much of NPR’s engagement came from one article, with the piece about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death responsible for a third of their total for the month. Political news sites were common among the top 25, in a continuation of what was obviously a theme identifiable in the top articles overall.

If you’d like to build lists like this for yourself, check out the NewsWhip product suite.

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.

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