Local news matters on Facebook. The findings in this report show that U.S. local news pages have seen significant increases in interactions per post, despite consistent post output. This indicates that local news pages are seeing higher returns on their Facebook investments year over year.
This report spotlights the performance of ~2,700 U.S. local news publisher pages on Facebook over a 12-month period from July 2018 to June 2019 based on public data from CrowdTangle. The sample is a mix of print, broadcast, news radio and digital first publishers that are members of the following organizations: Local Media Association, Local Media Consortium, National Association of Broadcasters, Local Independent Online News Publishers and the Institute for Nonprofit News. Each publishing organization submitted a list of members to us for use in this report (see our appendix section below for more information on the publisher sample). Next week, the Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium will release a complementary report that provides strategic tips and takeaways based on the data included here, as well as insights from local newsrooms on what’s been working for their Facebook strategies.
- Post frequency and post-type mix by U.S. local news pages remained consistent YOY, with little to no variation in post output or post-type mix.
- Total Interactions per post consistently trended up for U.S. local news in News Feed between July 2018 and June 2019, increasing 26% YOY.
- Total interactions per link post shared by U.S. local news pages experienced an increase of 50% YOY. Previous research published by Facebook in 2018 found that interactions on links show a positive and significant relationship to outbound clicks.
- People shared U.S. local news link posts 97% more YOY, even though there was no significant change in the post frequency of links.
- Facebook videos (live and on-demand video) accounted for only 11% of posts but drove 24% of the total interactions on U.S. local news content.
- Longer videos generated more views than shorter ones. We found that while shorter videos were posted at a higher frequency, longer videos accounted for an outsized share of the total views.
- People ‘loved’ U.S. local news video posts 105% more YOY. After ‘likes,’ ‘love’ is by far the most used reaction on local news videos.
- Based on interaction rate trends, there is no golden hour for engagement on U.S. local news posts to Facebook. Posts performed better during peak “awake” hours in the U.S. and there was a noticeable dip in performance between 12am and 6am ET. This aligned with user activity on our platform and when people are awake in the U.S. — especially when using Facebook Live, consider your own audience trends to optimize distribution.
People are finding useful local news on Facebook, both in News Feed, where Facebook previously outlined efforts to surface more local news, and in “Today In,” a new place on Facebook for local news and community information that is now available in over 6.000 U.S. cities and towns.
Local news continues to be an important reason people come to Facebook. The purpose of this report is to highlight trends and share insights that can inform local news publisher posting strategies.
Post Frequency: How frequently are U.S. local newsrooms posting to Facebook?
- Overall Post Frequency is consistent for the YOY period, with 10.83M posts shared to News Feed by the ~2,700 U.S. local news publishers included in this report.
- When the full publisher set is broken down by page size, average daily post frequency is higher for pages with larger followings and lower for pages with smaller followings. Here are the average daily post stats for each page size set, which was consistent YOY:
- 1m-3m = 40
- 500k-1m = 40
- 100k-500k = 31
- 10k-100k = 11
- 50-10k = 2
Post Mix: What formats are U.S. local news publishers posting to Facebook?
*For any mentions of “video” in this report, we are referring to on-demand videos that publishers upload to Facebook. We will explicitly call out “live” when referring to that video post type.
- Link posts are the most common post type for U.S. local newsrooms, accounting for 80% of the total 10.83M posts that were shared from July 2018 – June 2019.
- Total videos posted (live and on-demand) remained consistent YOY, accounting for 11% of post output and 24% of total interactions.
- For the larger page size sets (1m-3m, 500k-1m and 100k-500k), all Facebook video post formats contribute to a higher percentage of the post mix, making up 15% of posts
- For the smaller sets (10k-100k and 50-10k), all Facebook video formats only make up 6% of posts shared.
- For smaller page sizes (10k-100k and 50-10k), photo posts make up a larger percentage of posts than videos, contributing to 10% of the post mix.
- Overall, post mix strategies remained consistent YOY for the full publisher set, with little to no variation.
- The 1M – 3M page size set was the only set that saw a somewhat noticeable YOY shift in post mix. For July 2018 – June 2019 total video posts from this set dropped -24%. However, there was a 20% increase in link output from the 1M – 3M page likes set.
Total Interactions: How has engagement developed for U.S. local news publishers on Facebook this year?
- Total interactions per post (likes, reactions, comments, shares) by the full publisher set are up 26% YOY for a total of 2.56B. When the full publisher page set is broken down by page size, each page size set experienced the following YOY increases in total interactions per post:
- 1m-3m Page Likes = +1%
- 500k-1m Page Likes = +24%
- 100k-500k Page Likes = +37%
- 10k-100k Page Likes = +32%
- 50-10k Page Likes= +75%
- Total interactions per post on links increased 50% YOY, with post frequency of links remaining consistent over the two periods.
- Using Facebook data, we analyzed link content from a subset of the U.S. local news publishers included in this report and found that there was a positive and significant relationship between total post interactions and outbound clicks on their link posts. Previous research published by Facebook in June 2018 found that interactions on links shows a positive and significant relationship to outbound clicks.
- Total interactions per post on video increased 25% YOY for the full publisher set, with post frequency of video remaining stable YOY. 1M – 3M was the only page size set that saw a decrease in post frequency of video at -24% , however, interactions per post on videos for this page size set remained consistent with a 10% increase.
- Total interactions per post on live videos decreased -22% for the full publisher set, with post frequency of live video up 8% YOY.
- Decreases of interactions per post on live videos occured for all page size sets except the 50 – 10k, which saw total interactions per post increase 28% on live video in the period.
- Total interactions per post on photos decreased -21%, and there was a -14% decrease in post frequency for the photo post type by the publisher set.
- The 50 – 10k page size set was the only page size that did not decrease the post frequency of photos in the time period and this page set saw a 60% increase in total interactions per post on photos for the 50-10k page size set.
Interaction Types: How have Facebook news consumers been interacting with U.S. local news publishers over the past year?
- All interaction types are up in frequency YOY (likes, comments, shares, reactions). Shares of U.S. local news were up 50% and use of the love reaction increased 62%.
- Of the 2.56B interactions, likes accounted for 30% and shares accounted for 31%, making these the two most common ways news consumers are interacting with U.S. local news on Facebook.
- People shared U.S. local news link posts 97% more YOY, even though there was no significant change in the post frequency of links. In 2018, Facebook made an effort to prioritize news that is relevant to people’s local community and the increase of shares of U.S. local news by people on Facebook indicates that this prioritization is having positive results.
- Video performed better than all other post types with the love reaction, and the love reaction received a YOY increase in use of 105% on this post type. The love reaction accounted for 14.5% of the ~465M interactions on video. Sad, angry, haha and wow perform at <4% of total interactions on video.
- For all months where there was a spike in total interactions on video it correlated to a spike in the love reaction on this post type.
- People were more likely to comment on a Facebook Live than any other type of post. Comments accounted for 40% of the ~158M interactions on live video in the 12 month period. On other post types (links, photos, video and statuses) comments make up an average of <16%.
What About Interaction Rates?
- Interaction Rate in CrowdTangle is an indicator of page engagement from Facebook users. The formula to calculate Interaction Rates can be found here and should not be confused with engagement rates in Page Insights, as CrowdTangle only tracks public data.
- While there has been volatility with a slight dip during April and May 2019, Interaction Rate shows an upward trend and peaked during February this year. Average weekly interaction rate increased 11% for the full publisher set used in this analysis and 50% for pages in the 50-10k page size set. This demonstrates that audiences have increased how much they continuously engage with local news that is relevant to them.
Post Time: What is the optimal time to post on Facebook?
- The graph above shows the distribution of posts’ Interaction Rates by hour of publication (a 24-hour clock based on Eastern Time).
- As you can see, posts perform better during peak “awake” hours in the U.S. and there’s a noticeable dip in performance between 12am and 6am. This aligns with user activity on our platform and when people are awake in the region — especially when going Live, consider your own audience trends to optimize distribution.
Video Views: How are video views performing for U.S. local news pages?
- Total 3-second video views on video (live and on-demand) were consistent YOY for the full publisher set at ~22.8B views, with consistent post frequency for all video types by the publisher set YOY.
- Views on uploaded video account for 78% of the total views and views on live video account for 22% of all views.
- Longer videos generated more views than shorter ones. We found that while shorter videos were posted at a higher frequency, longer videos accounted for an outsized share of the total views. Videos that were 0-59 seconds in length accounted for 59% of total videos posted and generated 44% of views. Videos that were 1min – 3Min+ in length accounted for 41% of total videos posted and generated 56% of views. The trend of longer video contributing to more views is inline with the video ranking changes Facebook made in April 2019 to prioritize video duration.
• Amber Burgess – Facebook/CrowdTangle Strategic Partner Manager – Local News
• Robin Monheit – Facebook/CrowdTangle Strategic Partner Manager – News
• Samantha Bennet – Facebook/CrowdTangle Strategic Partner Manager – Local News
• Patrick Walsh – Facebook Partner Solutions Data Analyst – News, Media Partnership
• Maximilian Struller – Facebook Partner Solutions Manager, News, Media Partnerships
• Jake Chang – Facebook Partner Solutions Manager – News, Media Partnerships
• Mari Melguizo –Facebook Communications Manager, News Product
• Will Bleakley – Product Marketing Communications Manager, CrowdTangle
• Francesca Sacasa – Head of Partnerships, CrowdTangle
Appendix: A Note About CrowdTangle’s Data
CrowdTangle tracks public engagement data on public pages for Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. CrowdTangle measurement formulas used in this report include:
• Total Interactions: The total number of reactions, shares and comments on a Facebook post. This does not include replies to comments on posts.
• Interaction Rate: Calculated by averaging the number of interactions for all of the account’s posts in the specified timeframe, then dividing that by the number of followers/fans.
• Page Growth: The number of new likes on Facebook and new followers on Instagram.
• Video Views: The number of times a video was watched for an aggregate of at least 3 seconds, or for nearly its total length, whichever happened first (more info here).
CrowdTangle post-types mentioned in this report are defined as:
• Links: Links uploaded to the platform
• Photos: Photos uploaded to the platform
• Video: Videos uploaded to Facebook video players (on-demand video)
• Live Video: Videos uploaded using Facebook live
• Status: Text only posts
Report Time Period: July 2018 – June 2019. All YOY comparisons are for the same 12 month range a year prior: July 2017 – June 2018.
The past two years were full of major developments for Facebook’s News Feed. At the beginning of 2018, Facebook announced that we will prioritize posts from friends and family. Additionally, Facebook updated our ranking to help ensure that news on Facebook is from trusted sources and that local news will be prioritized. These changes should be considered as a primer for this report.
A timeline of major News Feed updates in the U.S. are:
• Jan. 11, 2018: Bringing People Closer Together
• Jan. 29, 2018: More local news on Facebook
• Mar. 26, 2018: 2018: More local news on Facebook, Globally
• Jul. 28, 2018: Helping Ensure News on Facebook is from Trusted Sources
• April 2019: People, Publishers, the Community
• May 2019: Updates to Video Ranking
• May 2019: Better Connecting You With the People You Care About
• June 2019: Making Public Comments More Meaningful
Page Sample: For this report, we used CrowdTangle to track a custom list of ~2,700 U.S. local news pages on Facebook that are all members of at least one of the following publishing organizations: Local Media Association, Local Media Consortium, National Association of Broadcasters, Local Independent Online News Publishers and the Institute for Nonprofit News. Each publishing organization submitted a list of members to us for use in this report.
At times we studied the full list of pages, at others we broke the pages into the following sets:
• Full List = ~2,700 pages
• 1m-3m = ~30 pages
• 500k-1m = ~70 pages
• 100k-500k = ~400 pages
• 10k-100k = ~1,000 pages
• 50-10k = ~1,200 pages