The Milton Keynes pony who won the heart of social media (and other local news stories)

The story of a pony who faced being shot unless she was found a new home propelled a weekly news title to become the fastest growing local news title in the UK on social media last month.

The MK Citizen attracted 34k engagements to it first story about Maisie the pony’s plight, with a slew of animal charities and the Downton Abbey star Peter Egan all helping the story travel on Twitter too.

Maisie is believed to have been left behind by travellers who had camped near to Milton Keynes. Local residents continued to feed her until a sign went up from authorities saying they would have to consider humanely destroying her is she wasn’t claimed within 7 days.

The follow-up, announcing that pregnantMaisie had been found a home, was shared almost 6k times. Overall, the MK Citizen saw stories from its site engaged with on social 74k times last month, up from 28k the previous month, making it the fastest growing local news title on social media last month.

Maisie the pony

Our data, drawn from BuzzSumo, looks at the engagements — including shares, likes and comments — across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest for titles covering the 70 largest towns and cities across the UK.

In addition to helping Maisie the pony, the Citizen also saw strong engagement to stories about the largest inflatable park in the UK opening in Milton Keynes (3.5k), a human head being found by police (3k), and the search for a missing schoolgirl (2.6k).

The second-fastest growing site month-on-month was KentLive, which recorded over 1m engagements, up 130% (see below for more details), followed by LeicestershireLive, up 95% year on year (again see below) and the Telegraph and Argus in Bradford, up 79% year on year.

Overall social picture

Buzzsumo found 136k stories shared on social from the publishers we track during February, slightly down from the 138k recorded in January but 52% up year on year.

The number of engagements stood at 25.7m, down slightly month on month from 27.8m last month, but up 74% year on year.

Overall that meant engagements per article were down slightly month on month to 188 per regional news story, but up from 164 a year ago — a rise of 15%.

February 2018 was of course the first month of Facebook’s big change in approach to news, so the year-on-year comparison is a little skewed by this.

Buzzsumo tracks brand URLs wherever they are shared — it will include articles shared by brands themselves but also articles shared by users.

The MEN was the largest regional news brand for social media engagements, standing at 4.2m, up 9% month on month, followed by the Evening Standard, up 18% month on month on 1.9m. The Liverpool Echo followed on 1.5m, while WalesOnline was also on 1.5m.

The top 10 most social local news stories in February

KentLive has the most social story of February, with its guide to new rules for tenants seeking to sue their landlords. It generated 331k engagements, the vast majority of which were on Facebook.

Next up was LeicestershireLive’s tongue-in-cheek look at why it’s so hard to get people to use the left-hand lane of motorways. The volume of shares — 117k — suggests readers got the sarcasm and shared the sentiment.

The third most-shared story was the harrowing article about a man weighing just six stone and barely able to move who had his benefits cut and was told to return to work, written by the Liverpool Echo. It was shared 71k times.

Also making the top 10 were:

4. Parents warned disturbing Momo suicide challenge is ‘hacking Peppa Pig’ YouTube videos (Manchester Evening News, 61k shares)

5. Mosque opens doors to Birmingham homeless suffering on freezing streets (BirminghamLive, 47k shares)

6. Mum’s devastating warning after daughter, 5, dies after eating Cadbury Mini Eggs (LeicestershireLive, 37k shares)

7. Race against time to save abandoned pregnant pony from being shot in Milton Keynes (Milton Keynes Citizen, 34k shares)

8. Wales stun France with the most incredible rugby comeback in Six Nations history (WalesOnline, 29k shares)

9. Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland will be independent in five years (Scotsman, 27k shares)

10. England rugby team bus stuck in a major M4 traffic jam by Newport (WalesOnline, 25k shares)

Top 5 on Twitter

  1. Fans save Scottish squirrels to mark K-pop rapper J-Hope’s birthday (Scotsman, 7.8k shares)
  2. Weighing six stone and barely able to move (Liverpool Echo, 7k shares)
  3. Wavertree Labour group calls special meeting after no confidence votes tabled over MP Luciana Berger (Liverpool Echo, 4.4k shares)
  4. The moment ‘Yellow Vest’ activist James Goddard was caught on camera threatening a journalist (MEN, 3k)
  5. Failed UKIP candidate claims he was personally invited on to BBC Question Time (Herald Scotland, 2.8k)

Top 5 on Reddit

  1. Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland will be independent in five years (Scotsman, 9k engagements)
  2. Newhaven man’s campaign for statue of NWA’s Eazy-E (Brighton Argus, 5.8k)
  3. Eazy-E to be memorialised in Newhaven after man’s bizarre campaign (Brighton Argus, 4k)
  4. Actor Liam Neeson ‘cancels appearance on The Late Show’ (BelfastLive, 4k)
  5. Manchester United left to foot bill after Paris Saint-Germain fans trash Old Trafford (MEN, 3.6k)

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The stories behind the stories, from the regional press in the UK

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