These were the top publishers on Facebook in August 2021

September 16, 2021

Written by Benedict Nicholson

As summer turns to fall we’re back with our latest edition of the Facebook publisher rankings for August 2021, identifying the publishers with the most engagement on Facebook for the month. 

As always, we used our API and NewsWhip Spike 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. 

One more piece of housekeeping before we begin, in previous versions of this blog, we have included both the British and international versions of BBC in the rankings. From this month onward, for greater clarity, we will only be including the .co.uk version of the site due to the potential for confusion over duplicate numbers caused by redirects and the canonical url being the same across the British and international versions of articles in many cases.

With that established, here are some of the key takeaways for this month:

  • The Daily Wire was once again top of the rankings, though its lead over the competition shrank 
  • British publishers performed well, with both the BBC and The Daily Mail in the top three
  • Article engagements for the top articles were higher again after a summer lull 

Let’s look a little closer at the data. 

The top publishers of August 2021

The Daily Wire once again ended the month as the top publisher on Facebook, though both its overall engagements and its relative lead over its competitors have diminished since our last blog about June 2021.

Histogram showing the top publishers of August 2021, ranked by Facebook engagement, with Daily Wire at the top

The conservative publisher’s engagement level dropped from around 60 million to 42 million between June and August. While other publishers also lost engagements, The Daily Wire lost them at a higher rate, dropping around 30% compared to The Daily Mail’s 20% fall from 30 million to 24 million. 

Meanwhile, other publishers did see a rise in engagement. For example, the BBC saw public interest in its stories increase from 14 million to 24 million compared to June, while Reuters almost doubled its engagements to crack the top ten for the first time in many months. 

In short, in contrast to what we have seen in some months this year where we have seen declining engagement across all publishers, there was no clear pattern in engagement trends across all the publishers this month, with some publishers performing better and some performing worse.

In terms of the articles that were responsible for driving engagement for the top publishers, the top stories for The Daily Wire were as political as they always are, with reports of criticism of the Biden administration ubiquitous among its most engaged articles. The top story focused on a verbal clash between Biden and Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis (905k), while there were also pieces on Chicago cops turning their backs on the city’s mayor (645k), Rand Paul saying lockdowns should be resisted (540k), and the mother of a U.S. Marine criticizing the president (508k). A more cultural story among the top five was the US women’s soccer team losing in the Olympics (508k).

The Daily Mail’s stories were much more focused on the Olympics and Paralympics. The publisher’s top two stories — about a Team USA diver that was adopted from a Cambodian orphanage (362k) and Simone Biles’s welcome home parade (254k) — were both about the Tokyo event, as was the fourth most engaged story about Anastasia Pagonis winning a gold medal (223k). Other stories in the top five included pieces about a Hermes courier helping a woman give birth (254k), and the evacuation of animals from Afghanistan (190k).

For the BBC, the deaths of celebrities were the driving factor behind its most engaged articles. Reports of the passing of comedian Sean Lock (985k), Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (627k), and actress Una Stubbs (352k) were the publication’s three most interacted with stories, as people collectively mourned their loss. Rounding out the top five were pieces about the Africa Covid chief praising the vaccine (301k), and excitement from the Gardirova twins about their school grades (292k). 

But how did this compare to the top articles on the platform overall? 

The top articles on Facebook in August 2021

Engagement to the top articles on Facebook increased when compared with our last analysis in June. That month, the top four articles all came from UNICEF, and only one received more than a million engagements. 

By contrast, this month the top seven stories all had more than a million engagements, with the top piece having more than 3 million.

Table showing the top articles on Facebook in August 2021, ranked by engagement levels

That piece came from Manchester United’s announcement that they had reached an agreement to sign soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, seemingly from under the noses of their crosstown rivals Manchester City. United have a huge global fanbase, and Ronaldo is consistently one of the top performers natively on Facebook, so it is no surprise that this piece went viral. 

Beyond the top piece, thematically Covid and the evacuation of Afghanistan were both big stories. An opinion piece from a doctor in the LA Times was the other article to get more than 2 million engagements, while Afghanistan appeared in three of the top six stories, including two articles from UNICEF.

Other highly engaged pieces focused on Britney Spears’s conservatorship, a potential treatment for Covid, and garden frogs using flowers as umbrellas.

The top 25 publishers of August 2021

There was not much difference between the top 25 publishers this month, though interesting additions include Koreaboo and ABC Australia.

Table showing the 25 most engaged publishers on Facebook in August 2021

Though the engagement of the top publisher fell between June and August, the median engagement of the top 25 was higher this month, which may be the beginning of a return to the mean after a downward trend so far this year compared to the highs of 2020. 

If you’d like to stay up to date with what’s capturing the public interest on social media, you can sign up for our daily briefing here.

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