Which News Sites Get the Most Social Media Engagement?

It is safe to say that most news sites are now experimenting with various forms of user engagement and content promotion through social media. In recent years many larger news organizations were still coming to terms with the need for a social presence and the nature of their participation. Now the focus is decidedly more tactical with sites looking to understand how to maximize the benefits of their efforts and better integrate them with other marketing initiatives.

So which news sites are getting the most out of their social media efforts?

That’s not an easy question to answer without having access to each site’s analytics data and knowing their goals and objectives. But it is possible to make some basic comparisons using data from some of the free tools that are available.

Since I’ve been comparing major news sites in variety of areas (Facebook and Twitter impact; YouTube and new Digg activity; site speed and domain authority, among others) I thought I’d look at overall social media engagement too.

PostRank has a comparison tool that uses its Domain Activity API to measure total engagement based on user participation across multiple social platforms. So I ran 30+ news sites through the tool.

PostRank counts “engagement events” which it defines as individual activities such as a tweet, like, comment, digg, RSS view, etc. It then assigns “engagement points” to each event; events that demonstrate a higher level of effort and engagement are given higher values. These points are combined into a total engagement score (for more information see What is Engagement? on their site).

So which news sites are getting the most social media engagement?

PostRank
Engagement Score
1The New York Times11,292,352
2CNN7,413,850
3BBC News6,760,101
4Yahoo News5,894,236
5The Guardian4,906,694
6The Huffington Post4,721,214
7Slate3,526,905
8The Wall Street Journal3,354,520
9Reuters2,891,586
10The Washington Post2,415,594
11Los Angeles Times1,919,978
12Fox News1,690,950
13Telegraph.co.uk1,609,460
14Daily Mail (UK)1,304,779
15NPR1,114,516
16Time985,036
17The Boston Globe790,635
18BusinessWeek582,067
19CBS News565,777
20Newsweek562,238
21The Economist533,245
22AP515,010
23ABC News494,823
24Chicago Tribune448,363
25The Financial Times431,672
26Forbes366,096
27USA Today363,859
28The Christian Science Monitor254,322
29AOL News194,779
30UPI157,093
31MSNBC84,823

The New York Times leads the pack by a considerable margin. CNN, BBC News, Yahoo News, The Guardian and The Huffington Post form the next tier. The top 15 sites earned scored over 1 million; from that point the scores begin to drop considerably.

Here is a head-to-head look at the top three (click to enlarge):

PostRank scores for The New York Times, CNN and BBC News

The BBC News score is somewhat inflated because the PostRank tool cannot isolate by subdirectory so I had to measure all of bbc.co.uk, not just bbc.co.uk/news/. But in going through the site a substantial portion of the content is news so I opted to include it.

In looking at these figures it is important to note that sites with larger audiences have greater opportunities for engagement, so bigger brands are likely to have larger numbers. But reach and total engagement do still matter so I wanted to make that comparison.

More important is the quality of the engagement and the actions that are triggered by it. A smaller number of engagement points that directly lead to traffic, links, fans, signups, revenue or any other desired action can be much more valuable than just raw user activity across social platforms.

Comments

  1. Adam, great analysis! I’m really surprised only 4 “new” media made the top 30: Yahoo, Huffington, Slate, AOL. You’d think engagement would be way higher than with “old” media. Also surprised how well some magazines did. In many ways it’s encouraging that great content may be winning over readers/viewers and engaging them presuming there is no hidden bias in PostRank. Thanks for your post.
    Jeff

  2. Thanks Jeff. To clarify my methodology, I chose 30+ sites with a mainstream/national news focus, making effort to include a cross-section of newspapers, magazines, TV, Web-only etc. So there may definitely be some other new media sites with engagement scores that are competitive with this group, or even higher. But I left out sites like Mashable and TechCrunch that have a more specific content focus.

  3. Adam, great stuff! To your point about also taking the size of the audience into account, just posted some extra analysis on our blog.

    The engagement per unique and visitor numbers are very interesting metrics that we use often at PostRank, because they highlight very well the differences in the effectiveness of the sites’ social strategy and execution.

    ig

  4. Great follow-up analysis Ilya. Looking at engagement per visitor/unique is a good idea and sheds more light on each site’s effectiveness. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Cory Bergman says:

    Hi Adam, I think PostRank under-counted msnbc because the site’s true domain is msnbc.msn.com. Looking at the unique users in the raw data, msnbc.com is listed with 1.9M, but it consistently ranks in the top 3 news sites in unique users along with CNN.com (listed at 25M) and Yahoo News.

  6. Cory, good catch. Not sure if Adam factored in the msnbc.msn.com subdomain when he got the engagement number, but I know I certainly didn’t take it into account when fetching the data from Compete (which unfortunately, requires a subscription to get at subdomain breakdowns).

    Adam, if its not too much trouble, do you mind sharing (or emailing me: ilya at postrank.com) the list of domains you used to fetch the engagement numbers? Want to make sure we’re comparing apples to apples.

  7. Cory/Ilya, I did wonder about MSNBC actually. First I ran it on msnbc.msn.com but that figure was very low (re-running that one today shows a total engagement score of just 2,712). Running it on msnbc.com provided the higher score above (today it’s 86,083), but that is also quite low. Maybe since msnbc.com redirects to msnbc.msn.com that is causing an issue. MSN.com has a total score of 4,083,019 today, but since there is more on MSN than news I opted not to use that.

  8. Ack, that’s a tricky one, there are three different cases to take into account:
    1) http://www.msnbc.msn.com
    2) msnbc.msn.com
    3) msnbc.com

    ig

  9. Great analysys, thank you for sharing. I wonder how one can measure the quality of the engagement.

  10. It’s a good point David. Fostering engagement and user activity is important but the quality and depth of the resulting actions (at that moment as well as repeat actions in the future) varies greatly by situation, user, etc. Some companies establish a list of desired actions and assign some weigh to each. But that’s more about measuring the “success” of engagement rather than “quality.”

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