These were the top publishers on Facebook in January 2021

February 10, 2021

Written by Benedict Nicholson
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The first month of the new year saw a rebound in engagement with web publishers on Facebook, after consecutive months of declining numbers. 

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 the last month: 

  • The Daily Wire remained at the top of the rankings for another month 
  • Engagement rose up again after a few months of decline 
  • CNN and NBC News rose up the rankings to take second and third place respectively

Let’s look a little closer.

The top publishers of January 2021 on Facebook

The Daily Wire was once again the top publisher in terms of Facebook engagement in the last month, with a significant rise in engagements compared to December.

Bar graph showing the top publishers on Facebook in January 2021, ranked by engagement

The conservative publisher had a little over 50 million engagements in December, which rose to 76 million in January. To be fair, this level of rise was seen in several publishers, with CNN also dramatically going up from 46 million to 71 million engagements in the space of a month. 

NBC News rounded out the top three, but had fewer engagements than the top two by some distance with 59 million. It was once again, however, much more than the levels they achieved in the last month of 2020, when the publisher had 34 million engagements. Even the Daily Mail, who fell from third to sixth in the rankings this month, actually saw engagement growth from 49 million to 52 million, though obviously this was not as big a rise as others saw, hence the drop in position.

In terms of what went viral for the top publishers, there was, as usual, a variance across the top three, though perhaps less so this month than we have seen previously. 

For The Daily Wire it was once again all about politics. Their top article, which was their only one to receive more than a million engagements, was about Republican Kevin McCarthy responding to calls for more gender-inclusive language in the House rules. McCarthy called the move “stupid”. 

There was also a strong focus from the publisher on National Guard troops in DC, and the Keystone XL pipeline, both of which appeared multiple times among the top ten articles. The most engaged for the latter was about unions criticizing Biden’s move to halt the Keystone XL project, which saw 885k engagements. When it came to the National Guard, the top article was about photos that emerged of some members sleeping in a parking garage while they were in D.C. for additional inauguration security. This piece received more than 750k engagements on Facebook. 

Despite having fewer engagements overall, CNN did have more articles that received more than a million engagements on Facebook, and all four that did so were about politics. They were, in order, a piece about the storming of the Capitol on January 6th, an article on Twitter banning President Trump from its platform permanently, a piece on Democrats taking the Senate by winning both Georgia run-offs, and a story on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos submitting her resignation

For NBC News, there was also a political theme, and the publisher also had three articles that saw more than a million engagements on Facebook. These looked very similar to CNN’s, with two about the Capitol Riot and its aftermath, and one about Twitter’s permanent Trump ban. The only article in the top ten for NBC News that was not political was about the death of Larry King, which saw 808k engagements. 

But what about the top articles more broadly? 

The top articles of January 2021 on Facebook 

The top articles on Facebook tended to have a political framing, which is to be expected as major political events occurred in the month.

Table showing the most engaged articles on Facebook in January 2021, ranked by engagement

The most engaged political story actually came from the Washington Post, with their reporting on President Trump’s call to the Georgia secretary of state in which he asked to find more votes. This was a piece that received more than 4 million engagements, and was one of only two such pieces to hit that level in January. The other was a Chicago Tribune piece on someone who died after having received a Covid vaccine, even though there was no link between the two events. We have written more thoroughly about that phenomenon this week in its own piece, which you can find here

The inauguration of President Biden was also a major theme of the top stories, though it was generally others that actually stole the show. Poet Amanda Gorman found herself in the spotlight, with a piece in NPR about her and her poetry receiving 2.5 million engagements, while Bernie Sanders raised money for charity off the back of being made into a meme as he attended Biden’s swearing in.

In non-political news, there were pieces about new trends in beards, Build-A-Bear releasing a new ‘Winnie the Pooh’ collection, and the Netflix show Bridgerton laying out plans for eight seasons

All of the top fifteen articles received a minimum of 1.3 million engagements.

The top 25 publishers of January 

Below are the top 25 publishers on Facebook, ranked by the engagement they received on Facebook. 

Table showing the top 25 publishers of January 2021 on Facebook, ranked by engagement

The Nigerian publisher Legit fell out of the top ten, where it appeared for the first time in December, but remained in the top 20.

The top 25 looked fairly similar to what we saw in terms of the make-up of the list, though engagements were considerably higher across the board. 

If you’d like to track the top publishers yourself, take a tour of NewsWhip.

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