The Top Daily Newspapers on Social

Published on Mar 14th, 2016

by Jack Weinstein

Print media is alive and well, especially on social media.

Daily newspapers generated 372 million social actions (likes, comments, shares and retweets) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in 2015. That represents 116% year-over-year growth. By comparison, all social media engagement grew by 35% last year.

National publications dominated the Top 20 with The New York Times, USA Today and the Washington Post in the first three spots. But regional and local dailies followed and filled out the second half of the ranking.

We recently presented State of Social: News Publishing (link). The presentation examined how the local media (TV and radio) and newspaper industries were faring on social. While local media fared well, experiencing engagement growth, it didn’t generate as much improvement as the newspapers.

From that presentation, we’re going to focus on how the newspapers, especially how the regional and local dailies produced engagement gains and interacted with audiences.

Growth Opportunities with Instagram

Instagram presents the greatest growth potential for all of social media with only 50% of brands represented on the platform. Newspapers have even more room to grow. Only about 36% of daily newspapers have a presence on the platform.

While social media experienced 74% growth on Instagram in 2015, Newspapers did even better. They grew 424% year to year on the platform, the largest engagement increase of any platform.

Local media, which experienced 127% year-over-year growth on Instagram has even more room to grow in 2016. Only 31% of local TV and radio stations use Instagram.

Content Producers Should Focus on Social Video

Media brands, more so than any other industry, are better positioned to create video content than any other industry. They’re expert content producers who have been working to survive in a 24-hour news cycle that demands more and more news using different mediums. Kind of sounds like the process of building audiences on social media.

Given this rationale, it’s not a surprise to learn that newspapers fared well using social video in 2015. Newspapers experienced a 367% year-over-year engagement improvement from video content last year driven by growth on Facebook (497%) and Twitter (533%).

Daily newspapers actually experienced a decline on Instagram, where the rest of social media excelled in 2015 with 143% engagement growth.

Local media experienced better engagement growth from Instagram video than the rest of social with 172% improvement year over year. It also did well on Twitter, but didn’t perform as well on Facebook. But as more and more Facebook users indicate their preference for video on the platform, local media will have to deliver.

Social video is so important because the content is highly shareable. Of the actions generated from the top 1,000 Facebook posts, 57% percent were shares—the most coveted social action . Of the actions generated by local media, 23% were shares last year.

Content Strategy Drives Engagement

Our analysis revealed that newspapers use a content strategy built around three types of stories: human interest, real-time updates and the unexpected.

Human Interest Stories

Storytelling and content that evokes emotion are also significant drivers of shareable content. They also drive engagement for newspapers, especially with human interest stories.

The San Francisco Chronicle generated about two-thirds of its engagement from a story about a local street artist from shares by using emotion to appeal to its audience. It was the Chronicle's most-engaged Facebook post of the year.

Real-time Updates

Twitter is the platform of choice for provide real-time updates during breaking news coverage that audiences can quickly retweet if the content is worth sharing.

The Boston Globe generated about 70% of its engagement from a tweet alerting readers that accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been found guilty.

Unexpected stories

Daily newspapers, as we mentioned, were significantly more successful on Instagram in 2014 compared with the year before. The Arizona Republic is a good example. Phoenix’s daily newspaper doubled its Instagram engagement in 2015 to more than 90,000 actions. It took a cue from successful brands and posted user-generated content .

Co-Branded Partnerships Present Opportunities for Advertisers

Brand advertisers have long used newspapers to advertise their products and services. Many dailies that we evaluated are providing value for local businesses by generating more social engagement with sponsored content than the businesses could get on their own.

Visit Telluride, the tourism board for Telluride, Colorado, has an active social media presence. On Facebook alone, Visit Telluride posted 590 times and generated more than 180,000 actions in 2015. That’s 319 actions per post. Not bad.

But when Visit Telluride partnered with the Denver Post, it generated an average of 3,505 actions on four sponsored posts in less than six weeks. That’s 999% more engagement than the average Visit Telluride post last year. The tourism board successfully leveraged the Denver Post’s much larger Facebook audience (346,374 to 25,544 as of Dec. 31, 2015) to expose its brand to more potential Telluride visitors.

Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty found similar success when it partnered with the Houston Chronicle . The realtor published 272 Facebook posts in 2015 and generated 4,508 actions. It more than quadrupled that yearly engagement with more than 19,200 actions in just 25 posts sponsored posts published by the Houston Chronicle.

By partnering with the Houston Chronicle, Martha Turner Sotheby’s International was able to expose its brand to a much larger Facebook audience (257,879 to 1,688 fans as of Dec. 31).

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