Whisper it quietly: Readers are finding more local news on social media

Last month, Behind Local News revealed exclusive research into what was happening to local publishers on social media. Despite the well-publicised change of approach from Facebook at the turn of the year, many local publishers are still seeing growth in engagement with their stories on social media.

Of course, engagement alone tends not to pay the bills, but it’s a clear indicator of the sorts of stories which are likely to get people to visit a brand’s website.

So today we’re introducing a new feature on BLN — every month we’ll look at what’s happening to the publishers based in the UK’s largest 70 towns and cities on social media, using data from Buzzsumo.

The data takes engagements from several of the main social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Reddit- and aggregates them up. An engagement can be a share, a like, a comment: anything the platforms allow people to do with a link.

For the engagements to be tracked, links need to be posted on social media in the first place. The data includes engagements from links posted by the publisher, but also links posted by individuals. Facebook especially is increasingly focusing on sharing content which is shared peer-to-peer.

So what did September 17 look like for the country’s biggest regional press publishers?

Overall, regional news content was engaged with 15.6m times across September, up 16% on August and 6% up year on year.

The number of articles from publishers rose 3% month on month, with 52,800 articles shared during the course of September from local news publishers.

This is a 39% increase year on year too.

The average engagements per article rose in September 18 vs August by 13%, but was down -23% against September 2017.

One reading of this data would be that as Facebook as reduced the influence of publisher posts during 2018m, readers have become more active in finding stories and sharing them themselves, but because individuals tend not to have as many connections on Facebook as a brand page, each article shared generates a smaller number of engagements.

The brand generating the highest number of engagements was the Manchester Evening News, whose content generated 2.4m engagements in September, followed by the Evening Stard in London 1.6m, and the Liverpool Echo on 1.3m.

Kent Live — the website run by Reach in the Garden of England, came fourth, punching far above its weight in terms of audience size.

When you look at the most engaging stories of September, all becomes clear:

Top 20 most engaging local news stories on social media in September 2018:

  1. Forecasters predict coldest winter in a decade and four months of snow (KentLive, 1.1m engagements)
  2. Pets are ‘scared’ and look around for their owners in dying moments, ‘broken-hearted’ vet reveals (Standard, 600k engagements)
  3. You can hunt zombies in The Asylum at Newsham Park Hospital this Halloween (Liverpool Echo, 139k engagements)
  4. Designer dog and cat breeding to be ‘outlawed’ in Scotland under new regulations (Scotsman, 56k engagements)
  5. Posters claiming ‘Israel is a racist endeavour’ appear at London bus stops and are being investigated by police (Standard, 50k engagements)
  6. Devon town has rude awakening after vandals rearrange huge Tour of Britain artwork overnight (DevonLive, 35k engagements)
  7. Fake ‘hate-filled’ Daily Mail being handed out for free on Liverpool streets (Liverpool Echo, 32k engagements)
  8. Cornwall’s first ever ADULT inflatable theme park comes with a bar and DJ (Cornwall Live, 32k engagements)
  9. Personal Independence Payment refused to young Belfast mum fighting stage four cancer (BelfastLive, 24k engagements)
  10. The new speed cameras which can tell if you’re on your phone or not wearing seatbelt (BirminghamLive, 25k engagements)
  11. Senior Met Police officer could face the sack for using ‘racist’ ‘whiter than white’ phrase (Standard, 25k engagements)
  12. Britain’s first ever Ice Village is coming to Manchester for Christmas 2018 — with an ice cave housing a frozen toy factory and Santa’s grotto (MEN, 25k engagements)
  13. This terrifying zombie experience is coming to North Wales — and you might recognise the location(Daily Post, 24k engagements)
  14. This is the drunken England supporter who punched police horse in face while cheering (Bristol Live, 25k engagements)
  15. Horror after dog is found hanged in Brackenhill Park (Telegraph and Argus, 23k engagements)
  16. Fury as ‘bacon’ is scrawled on walls of Newcastle mosque in ‘disgusting’ attack (ChronicleLive, 23k engagements)
  17. Aldi are launching foot-long pigs in blankets for Christmas (WalesOnline, 23k engagements)
  18. Chelmsford pub opens igloo-style dining pods so you can eat under the stars all year (EssexLive, 22k engagements)
  19. The Giants 2018 full routes, timetable and Map (Liverpool Echo, 22k engagements)
  20. Mum of four children killed in Walkden pays tribute to ‘angels in the sky’ at heartbreaking funeral service (Manchester Evening News, 22k engagements)

Around 97% of social media engagements take place on Facebook for local news.

Random fact of the month: The designer dog story listed at number 4 got 47k of its engagements from Reddit.

Tell us what you think of this data, and what else we could do with it, in the comments below!

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