Top Social Publishers August 2013: Sharing way up for all publishers, and BuzzFeed on Top

Last week, NewsWhip brought you the results of our trawl of social media news-sharing trends and patterns for August 2013.

Now we’re pleased to publish our top publishers list for the same month. Using data from our content discovery platform Spike, we compiled a list of the web’s top publishers, ranked by total social media interactions with their content on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing this list monthly from now on, as this is neat data and we want to share it.

First – Facebook.

Top Facebook Publishers, August 2013 The list reveals some substantial shifts in the online publishers’ hierarchy since we unveiled our last ‘social monsters’ list in September 2012. It also shows a huge lift in social sharing around content on the network. Let’s take a closer look.

Sharing and Social Interaction With Content is Exploding

In September 2012, NewsWhip measured 44.28m total Facebook interactions (likes, shares and comments) for the top 50 online publishers. In August 2013, we measured almost 117.5m interactions for the same cohort – an increase of 165% in under 12 months.

The Big Publishers Showed a Huge Increase in Share Levels

Social media engagement around published content seems to have grown substantially over the past year. The growth in Facebook interactions recorded by almost all publishers is dramatic, with many publishers increasing their share of Facebook and Twitter interactions by well over 100%. This trend can be seen right through the top 20. For instance, Russia Today placed at no. 27 in September 2012 with 559,482 interactions. In August 2013, the site was no. 20, with 1,841,195 interactions. Practically all publishers seem to have benefitted by the rising tide of social media engagement by their readers. Differences in scores ultimately come down to how publishers harness and engage with this change.


Upworthy monthly uniques 2012

Aggressively Social-Focused Publishers Grow Amazingly Fast

Of August’s top five most social outlets on Facebook three are online-only publishers – BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and Upworthy. All three are focused on publishing share-friendly content, and getting it shared. In particular the Huffington Post has shifted most effectively from its SEO (search optimised) roots to the current SMO (social optimised) reality. The BBC performed well, hanging onto fourth spot and doubling total Facebook interactions, while CNN managed a healthy improvement, going from number seven in September 2013 to number three in August 2013. Outside the top five, traditional news outlets including the New York Times, Fox Network, The Daily Mail, NBC Network and the Guardian dominate. These publishers all increased their levels of social interaction substantially since 2012.

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 16.10.20

BuzzFeed Takes Top Spot

This data places BuzzFeed as a major talking point. In September 2012, BuzzFeed had 2.4m combined Facebook interactions with their published content. In August 2013, that figure was over 15.9m – the highest of any publisher.

BuzzFeed’s biggest articles are still the listicles that have become synonymous with the site (“21 Pictures That will Restore your Faith in Humanity”). Meanwhile, BuzzFeed announced major plans to invest in its journalism unit just this month, and the media mavens will watch with interest to see whether the same viral magic can work on their news content. Already, BuzzFeed has published several long form journalism pieces that have gone viral – though not at the same scale as their most successful listicles.

Huffington Post Publishes Most-Shared Story

Next on the list of top Facebook interactions is The Huffington Post, with over 3m Facebook shares and almost 6m likes. In September 2012, HuffPo led the field in total Facebook interactions, beating nearest rival Yahoo! by almost double. August’s results show a different playing field. The Huffington Post increased their total interactions from just over 5m to well in excess of 12m, but even a doubling of their interactions wasn’t enough to secure top spot.

The Huffington Post’s content is a mixture of news – often with provocative, emotional headlines, and more serious political stories as well as a massive long tail of commentary from its blogger network. As we noted on the blog last week, Facebook’s most shared and commented article of the month was the Huffington Post’s ‘23 Signs You’re Secretly as Introvert’, which has close to a million likes one month after being published. There’s gold in getting them introverts sharing.

Upworthy barges into top five

Another notable entrant in the top ten is the viral-focussed site Upworthy, which started publishing in March 2012. The site’s growth has been phenomenal, with one commentator describing it as the ‘fastest-growing media site of all time’ earlier this year. Our figures back that up. Last year the site was nowhere to be seen in the top 40, while its social distribution for August 2013 puts it right in at number five – above the likes of the New York Times, the Daily Mail and the Guardian.

Of the top ten sites surveyed, Upworthy also had the lowest article count (216), suggesting a very high share count for each piece of content. The site’s approach involves curation, not creation, of content. With a reported $8m in funding now behind the company, it looks as though Upworthy won’t be budging from the upper sharing tier anytime soon.

Twitter: “Real” News and Tech News Win

Top Twitter Publishers, August 2013

While combined Facebook interactions tower above Twitter shares, some publishers clearly do Twitter better than others. In contrast to the Facebook top 20 however, a large number of tech sites are amongst Twitter’s top performers, along with many traditional news outlets.

The BBC’s content performed strongest on Twitter by a large margin, with well over 2m tweets for their 8,016 articles. They’re followed by Mashable, with just under 1.25m tweets.

It’s clear that tech sites have a strong presence on Twitter. Sites such as Gizmodo and CNET featured in the top 20, while not featuring highly on the Facebook share count.

The content from three sites had more tweets than Facebook shares in August – Mashable, Forbes and TechCrunch. This may speak volumes about the audience of those sites. Due to the many bots and automatic feeds on Twitter,  automated tweeting does tend to bump up the numbers for some sites, though the degree of this is difficult to quantify.


All the data comes from Spike, our trending content discovery tool. Spike tracks the social spread of over 200,000 stories each day, allowing users to find the stories that are getting shares, likes, tweets and other interaction, very early in their viral growth.

Spike collects hundreds of data points for every story we track – so at the end of the month we can pull down the data and take a good look at what’s been changing in the world of social distribution.

Date range

For this ranking, we tracked social interactions on Facebook and Twitter for all English-language content published online from 00.01am on 1 August to 11.59pm on 31 August 2013. Any sharing activity that happened after September 1 for stories published during August is not included.

Content Covered

On average, Newswhip Spike finds and tracks all or almost all of the content published by each site (98% of content on average). That figure can drop if a site reorganises its structure in some way, or branches into new sub-sites that we don’t detect.

Large sites with various sub-domains have been grouped together to give an overall figure for the publisher. For instance, figures for the New York Times include stats for, along with various subdomains.

Similarly, we aggregate the various subdomains used by TV networks like NBC, ABC and CNN. This gives a fairer representation of a publisher’s social reach. Some content networks are particularly sprawling and hard to track – in particular we have trouble making sure we get everything for the sprawling Yahoo! network – which may partly explain their lower ranking this time round. (Sorry, Marissa!).

If our stats are important for you, drop us a line at and we’ll work with you to make sure we have all your content covered.

Correction: the chart of top Twitter publishers originally omitted Goal and Gizmodo due to a spreadsheet malfunction. We regret the error.


Paul Quigley

Paul Quigley is CEO and Co-Founder of NewsWhip, a social signals platform used by media and marketing professionals. Paul blogs about major trends in journalism, media and social signals technology, and his opinions have been featured at AdAge, AdWeek, Columbia Journalism Review, Independent, Irish Times, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and Yahoo!

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