Commentary

Study: Facebook Engagement Rises For Web Publishers

Facebook engagement for publishers has bounced back strongly in early 2019. It's more than a year since the social network changed its news feed to show fewer professionally produced posts, such as news stories and viral videos.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is the most engaging content is about inflammatory topics, like abortion and illegal immigration. No wonder my Facebook posts about counting carbs, buying socks and proof-reading the tax code get no traction.

News broadcasters like Fox News, NBC, BBC and CNN ranked highest by engagement, while the top print publisher was U.K. tabloid The Daily Mail with 89.4 million engagements, according to social-media tracking firm NewsWhip. The company tracked engagements -- which include user actions like clicks, likes, shares and comments – from January 1 to March 10.

The New York Times and India Times were the only top-ranking media companies that still produce a print edition. Daily Wire, HuffPost, Yahoo, LadBible, Breitbart and the Guardian are all digital.

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Celebrity gossip site TMZ was ranked No. 1 with its coverage of Luke Perry’s death at age 52 from a stroke. The story about the deceased star of “Beverly Hills, 90210” spurred more than 3.5 million engagements, NewsWhip said.

The Christian Broadcasting Network’s CBN.com site and the anti-abortion site Lifenews.com were the next highest in the ranking with stories about the legality of abortion.

The most shared story on Facebook came from the website for country music broadcaster KUSJ in Harker Heights, Texas. Its story “Suspected Human Trafficker, Child Predator May Be In Our Area” was shared more than 806,000 times after being posted from US105FM.com.

NewsWhip also looked at posts that were native to Facebook, meaning they originated on the social network. The most popular posts tended to be funny or heartwarming videos.

Recipe site So Yummy triggered the most engagements with a native video titled “Be a smart cookie with these 12 cookie decorating hacks.” The post racked up 2.6 million engagements.

Video teasers for HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones,” which will premiere its final season on April 14, also racked received millions of engagements.

While it’s encouraging that engagement rates have rebounded for publishers, they still need to be cautious about depending on Facebook for impressions and traffic. Company CEO Mark Zuckerberg intends to remake the social network with a greater focus on privacy and messaging. It’s not clear how those changes will affect its news feed.

Facebook last week banned Zero Hedge, the libertarian financial website, from letting users share posts with other users, Bloomberg News reported. Facebook said Zero Hedge's stories "couldn’t be shared, because this link goes against our Community Standards."

Zero Hedge accused Facebook of censorship, and the social network later lifted the ban saying it was a "mistake."

As NewsWhip's study indicates, Facebook still has plenty of power to generate engagement for publishers.

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