Published on May 19th, 2015 | by Paul Schulze

Too slow! How newspapers lose exposure

Everyone wants to be up to date. This is why newspapers and TV channels are very successful on Facebook. One might think it is rather easy to administer a Facebook page of a newspaper as the content is written by the world itself. But speed seems to be a crucial part of that job. Does it make a big difference? Or does the turtle win against the rabbit due to high quality journalism and writing. Let’s have a closer look at the success of american news-outlets.

General Engagement

Fox News shows how it’s done, almost 10 times a much engagement as CNN and the New York Times, what’s the reason?

For this analysis we chose to compare the pages of CNN, New York Times, Fox News Channel and USA Today.

To see how speed and time affect the engagement of users with posts, we looked at the average engagement of these pages first. We analyzed both average and median engagement of each page. After all, the impact of outliers can be pretty significant. Without outliers the New York Times’ average engagement would be around 0.013% instead of 0.032% per post.

Especially Fox News and CNN are way more consistent. Their medians are significantly closer to their averages. While the New York Times‘ median is 59% lower than its average, CNN and Fox News only look at two thirds of that. Granted, that’s still a pretty big chunk.

An example to visualize what this means: Judging by the average post engagement, Fox News can expect 27k reactions per post. The median however shows that more than half their posts hardly even reach 15k.

Knowing what to expect from an average post, it is now possible to analyze how posts for certain news events performed regarding to the timing.

Germanwings flight 4U-9525

46 minute time frame – First two posts published at almost the same time and were significantly more successful

As you can see: Two posts stand out. Both Fox News and CNN published the news faster than their two competitors. The impact this had was pretty significant. CNN managed to get an engagement twice as high as that of USA Today, and more than three times as high as the New York Times.

By the time these two papers published the news, it wasn’t really a news anymore. Tragedy spreads like a bushfire. Within a couple of minute almost anyone with a smartphone knows about it. Delaying a post by 25 minutes or more will result in a significant loss.

The New York Times publishes its article 45 minutes after CNN and ended up losing a lot of reactions. The difference was even bigger than it usually is. CNN (0.037% average post engagement) and the New York Times (0.032% average post engagement) generally are on par in terms of social media success.

However, due to delaying the news, the difference increased significantly and jumped from an average 15% to 285%. Posting quickly helped CNN to outgun even Fox News. The question is: If CNN can perform this well, why is its average engagement so low? Lets have a look at a other examples.

NFL Superbowl XLIX

8 minute time frame – CNN and US Today manage to overtake the top spots by being quicker than Fox News

The biggest sports event in the United States. The vast majority of americans is watching it. Does your timing actually matter? After all, by the time people see the score on Facebook they will probably already have seen it on the screen.

As we can see: even though being a quickly spreading news, speed still matters. USA Today and CNN gathered by far the most reactions per user, reaching 0.43% and 0.35% engagement respectively.

The New York Times posted last and reached the least. Once again the paper lost out to CNN by a large margin. The gap increased from 15% to over 300%. However, Fox News lost plenty of ground as well. Usually the network outshines its competitors. This time it posted third and came in third. Apparently not even Fox News, a page that gathers up to 12 times its competitors median engagement can ignore speed as a necessity.

First western Ebola victim

1 hour time frame – CNN gains a lot of attention due to publishing the news second, the NY Times hardly reaches anyone because the news isn’t really news anymore

News of a potential Ebola epidemic took the world by storm. And when it was discovered that an infected american made it onto a plane, hell broke loose. Papers and TV stations didn’t approach the situation with quite as much interest. The New York Times delayed the news by a significant amount of time, publishing it more than one hour after Fox News did.

The impact this had on the engagement rates can be seen on the right. Once again the New York Times misses out on potential reactions because it delayed its posts for no good reason.

CNN managed to outgun USA Today by posting 15 minutes earlier. By doing so they gained a lot of attention and actively participated in spreading the news.

Charges against Amanda Knox dropped

14 minute time frame – everybody posted in a timely manner and managed to gather reactions that match their average

On March 27th the supreme court of Italy overruled all charges pressed against Amanda Knox and her boyfriend, putting a lengthy trial to a rest.

It was a big news, about a topic that had been the center of endless discussions for years. Within the first couple of minutes, hundreds of people shared the news. However, this was one of the few occasions at which all pages reacted in a timely manner.

This resulted in average engagement-rates. And when we say average, we mean average. The success of each page was incredibly close to what they manage to generate on average. Fox News 0.31%, average 0.3%, USA Today 0.136%, average 0.121%, CNN 0.046%, average 0.04%, NY Times 0.03%, average 0.03%.

We saw earlier that CNN can take the top spot if it’s quick enough. The pages results are mostly limited by speed. Whether this also applies for the New York Times is something we can’t tell.

The conclusion

This is because the New York Times came in last in almost all samples we took. Consistently joining the party later than all its competitors. They have the biggest fan base and plenty of active users, which is shown by some of their incredibly successful posts. But these same posts are the reason the average engagement is so inflated. Why the most well known newspaper on the planet is so slow is baffling to us.

Keep in mind that we looked at a lot more topics, but for the sake of readability focused on a handful instead of many. Our examples perfectly show how big of an impact your speed has. A post can always be edited to add more information, but lost reactions are lost forever.


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