One way to measure how well a website is doing is by the number of pageviews it's gotten. Another still — and the au courant metric of a website's success — is unique visitors, because it reveals how many people are actually going there. But what if you looked at what visitors were doing with stories after reading them? That's what Newswhip has done to compile a list of its "social monster" websites — the sites that are killing it on Facebook. And the mix might surprise you. Update: A fresh chart collects CNN, ABC, Fox and NBC's various subsites as one network, which shifts the ranks a tiny bit.
What you're looking at is a chart showing the publishers with the greatest number of stories that have over 100 Facebook interactions in the month of September, as measured on October 1. A "Facebook interaction" is defined as basically any kind of thing you can do with a link on Facebook — a like, a comment, or a share. The data was collected by Newswhip, which tracks over 5,000 English language newspapers and pulls the likes, shares and comments for their stories from Facebook's open API. So, to translate, the Huffington Post had 2,531 stories last month that got at least 100 people to like, share or comment on it on Facebook.
There basically two ways you could be surprised by this chart, simply by looking at the top 10: If you have a more net-centric view of the world, it's perhaps jarring to see that seven out of the top 10 are essentially old media properties, like the New York Times, Daily Mail and BBC (though maybe it shouldn't be). On the other hand, it's possibly just as surprising that the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, sites founded in 2005 and 2006 respectively, have so quickly infiltrated the same ranks as super established properties. (And that, well, the Huffington Post carries such a commanding lead over everybody else, with nearly a third more super social stories than the runner up, the UK's Daily Mail.)
There are obviously limitations to examining only Facebook interactions as a method for determining the most social stories and websites — it doesn't include Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest sharing, and it misses some of the dark social sharing proposed by Alexis Madrigal (though presumably it catches anything shared in Facebook chat, which appears to make up a not-significant portion of dark social traffic). But of the social traffic that we can see, Facebook still makes up the single biggest chunk of it for news sites, so the data collected here is significant at least insofar as it's telling us, broadly speaking, what people are sharing publicly — and which sites are creating more of that stuff than anybody else.
Here's another look at that data, from a different perspective: The sites with the greatest total number of Facebook interactions. It mixes up the chart quite a bit: the New York Times moves to number three, and BuzzFeed moves to number four. The Huffington Post still destroys everybody else.
(A note and an update: Newswhip explains its data here, noting that its "content finding systems are (and will remain) a work in progress," leading to it not counting Slate's blogs, which led to a lower ranking for the site. The Daily Beast disputs its Newswhip rank, which was below the top 40. Another particular point is that the Wall Street Journal and other sites behind a paywall present challenges to accurate tracking.
The tool that generated this data, Newswhip's Spike is in open beta right now and free.)