Social Monsters: The 25 News Sites Winning at Social Distribution

We’ve been tracking the social spread of the world’s news sites since September here at NewsWhip. And we’re building a map of who’s winning at social distribution.

NewsWhip tracks about 60,000 newly published English language news stories each day, from about 5,000 sources. Depending on how many shares or tweets each one gets each hour, it moves “faster” or “slower” through the social web. We publish the results live as they happen at newswhip.com.

We looked at our aggregate data to see which sites we publishing the biggest quantity of viral stories. We reckoned we could define a story as “viral” if it gets at least 150 shares or tweets per hour, which would give it a NewsWhip score of 100 (more or less). We then picked a month (November 2011) to run our query for.

So here are the winners – the 25 sites that published the greatest number of viral stories (scores of 100 or more) in that month. These sites are the most viral news sources in the English language.

Rank Publication Number of Viral Stories
1 Huffingtonpost.com

1347

2 BBC.co.uk

1088

3 Guardian.co.uk

519

4 Dailymail.co.uk

426

5 Mashable.com

312

6 ABCNews.com

295

7 TechCrunch.com

248

8 Foxnews.com*

227

9 ESPN.com

218

10 Engadget.com

171

11 TMZ.com

158

12 TimesofIndia.com

149

13 Gizmodo.com

148

14 CBSNews.com

148

15 WashingtonPost.com

139

16 Telegraph.co.uk

137

17 Gawker.com

131

18 ThinkProgress.org

129

19 People.com

126

20 AlJazeera.com

116

21 Lifehacker.com

102

22 Wired.com

86

23 Jezebel.com

84

24 TheNextWeb.com

81

25 TheGlobeandMail.com

77

*Edit, Tuesday Jan 10: In the above table, we check news sources based on individual domains, and a commenter below pointed out that we could aggregate all scores for the MSN / MSNBC network to give it an overall score. We just did that, and found the msnbc network (encompassing about 40 sections including usnews.msnbc.msn.com and firstread.msnbc.msn.com) had 241 viral stories in November 2011, which would have put it in 8th place, ahead of Fox News.*

The Huffington Post produces a huge volume of socially-primed content, tailor made for tweets and sharing. Still, the fact that they’re so far ahead shows how much a new site with careful focus on its social spread can achieve these days. (Buzzfeed raised a pile of cash today, and has similar ambitions). Fascinating to see HuffPo followed up by three UK-based publications. The BBC is massive globally, and drives tremendous sharing activity not just in the UK, but also in all the English-language markets east of the UK – India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, etc.

The Guardian and the Mail are also right up there. The UK’s national broadsheets are all competing vigorously for online eyeballs, and the competition seems to be bouying them all up. The Telegraph is also in the top 20.

Mashable comes in at number 5, not surprising given the social buzz that seems to surround every story published there. TechCrunch isn’t far behind, and tech blogs Engaget and Gizmodo are also in the top 15. Remarkable how many of this top 25 literally did not exist 10 years ago.

Two cautions about this information:

1. We don’t go behind paywalls to monitor paid sites, so you won’t see the New York Times, Financial Times, or Wall Street Journal on the list. We might change that policy in the future to make our data set more complete.

2. We are looking at aggregate information here – this is who’s most successful in quantity, not quality. If you’re a publication that posts only one or two stories a day, you won’t get enough aggregate sharing to get on this table, even if each of your stories gets major traction.

As news moves away from bundled, one-to-many distribution (newspapers, radio, TV) and into a distribution network that relies on sharing (Facebook, Twitter), social distribution will be critical for any new (or old) news site. We’ve started gathering even more granular information since January 1, 2012, so we’ll have some really good stuff to share soon.

Anyone surprised at the ranking? Or unsurprised, even?

To see which story is spreading fastest literally right now, head over to our homepage at newswhip.com.

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