October was the final month before the presidential election, but a surprising amount of the top content did not actually have to do with the election but the deaths of some beloved celebrities. 

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: 

  • The Daily Wire fell from its perch at the top of the rankings, being replaced by Fox News
  • Politics was prevalent, though not as much as it was in September, due to the deaths of a number of celebrities
  • Overall engagement was remarkably consistent among the top ten compared to September

Let’s look at the data. 

The top publishers of October 2020

This month saw the Daily Wire fall several places in the rankings to fifth, with around 30 million fewer engagements in October than they had in September. The top three was made up of Fox News, The Daily Mail, and CNN, with 79 million, 70 million, and 54 million engagements respectively.

Histogram showing the most engaged publishers on Facebook in 2020, ranked by engagement

NBC News was not far behind with just under 54 million engagements, but there was a sizable gap from there to the Daily Wire, the BBC, and the New York Times. Breitbart fell to tenth from sixth, while The Blaze reentered the top ten after having dropped out in September. 

The level of engagement across the top ten remained mostly steady, if very slightly lower than the previous month. In September, the top ten publishers combined for 481 million engagements, whereas in October that number was 479 million. 

But what were the articles that saw the most success for the top publishers? 

For Fox News, most of the top articles were political, with two about the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, including their top article, which had more than a million engagements. In all, their seven most engaged articles had more than a million engagements, including a story of missing children, Bruce Springsteen saying he would move to Australia if Trump won the election, and a hostage rescue in West Africa. Nancy Pelosi featured twice in the top ten and, in what is a theme for this month, the deaths of Eddie Van Halen and Sean Connery were highly resonant. 

The Daily Mail did not have any story with more than a million engagements. Their most engaged piece was about abuse that led to the death of a young girl, which had 800k engagements. The top stories were very different overall to those in Fox, with pets featuring prominently in a number of different stories. This included a dog’s people-watching fence, a cat and dog that were best friends, a girl napping with her two pets, and an alpaca hugging its mother. Indeed, the only crossover stories were stories about the deaths of Sean Connery and Eddie Van Halen.

CNN’s top article was about Donald Trump and Melania Trump testing positive for Covid-19, with which the president was eventually hospitalized. This was their only article to receive more than a million engagements. Other top articles for the publisher included Purdue Pharma pleading guilty to federal charges around the opioid crisis, a medical journal endorsing Joe Biden, and Pope Francis endorsing same-sex civil unions. 

So, there was considerable variety among the top articles of the top publishers. But what about the top articles overall? 

The top articles on Facebook in October 2020

A number of the themes covered by the publishers carried over, with the BBC’s article about the death of Sean Connery being the top article overall for the month of October with more than 4 million engagements. TMZ had the top article about Eddie Van Halen’s death, with just over 3.5 million engagements.

Chart showing the 15 most engaged articles on Facebook in October 2020

The top article about Trump’s positive Covid test surprisingly came from an AP story in local publisher WAFB, which received more than 4 million engagements. The Blaze also saw high engagements on this narrative, with more than 2.8 million coming to the conservative publisher’s story.

There were surprisingly few overtly political stories among the top fifteen, though stimulus talks being delayed and the news of 545 children unable to find their parents after being separated by the Trump administration were two notable exceptions, both coming from NBC News. 

The top 25 publishers of October

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

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

Across the top 25 publishers, total engagement was up slightly compared to September, with a total of 817 million Facebook engagements compared to 784 million. 

The rankings were largely dominated by American sites, though with a few notable exceptions including the BBC, the Daily Mail, and The Guardian. 

If you’d like to build lists like this for yourself, take a tour of NewsWhip’s 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.