Not just about the clicks: comparing Stuff and the Herald’s engagement stats

It’s no secret that Stuff leads the Herald in terms of the number of page views, audience reach and unique user base it attracts on a monthly basis, but this is by no means the only metric that advertisers are interested in tracking.

Engagement stats, particularly through social media, are becoming increasingly important in terms of determining the value of a placing an ad on a digital media property.

So, in order to gauge the effectiveness of both publications in terms of engagement, we surveyed 2.5 million Facebook interactions on the flagship pages of both the Herald and Stuff.   

This analysis tracked the engagements (likes and comments) which were publicly available on both Facebook pages in 2014. Shares have been excluded as it is a significantly lower volume metric. In the year ending 31 December 2014, Stuff made 1,440 individual news posts to their Facebook page, and NZ Herald 1,514. These posts accrued the following engagement metadata:

The above table shows a clear dominance in the aggregated totals of NZ Herald’s Facebook account. Obviously, some people who engage comment and like more than once, so this table doesn’t reflect the number of unique people who engaged on Facebook. So let’s look at the totals for this:

Here the total engaged accounts is a lower number, because many accounts engaged in material from both Facebook pages, and this reflects the total number of unique users across both accounts.

So we can establish here that not only does NZ Herald dominate Facebook when compared to Stuff, but also gets slightly more back from every user it reaches who engages at least once.

A year is a very long time on Facebook, and engagement with news media is exploding. A different way of viewing these data is over time:

Figure 1: Head to head: Likes and Comments on Facebook for New Zealand’s two primary print media flagship websites:

This way of viewing it is not as tough on Stuff. We can see that as Stuff has pushed for Facebook market penetration, and is swiftly catching up to where NZ Herald lies. In fact, the most interesting point about this graph is that it shows the explosion of engagement with formal media occurring on Facebook. It’s hard to gauge just how much of this was tied to the election, as the most engaged posts from both news agencies were routinely not election-related, but concerned more family-orientated content.

Figure 2: Stacked: If we stack Stuff and NZHerald engagement on top of each other, the explosion of social media interaction in New Zealand’s primary news sources becomes apparent. December through January is a traditionally quiet time for social media engagement in New Zealand, so we will only be able to ascertain the legitimacy of these trends by comparing it to data in 2015 as it becomes available. This graph strongly correlates with a strong growth in the acquisition of new Facebook users in New Zealand among the “older” demographic.

Of those who engaged, there was a small but core group of users who would do so repeatedly, and generated a statistically significant percentage of the interaction totals. For example one Facebook user made 3,781 likes or comments (roughly ten a day) across both the Stuff and NZ Herald Facebook pages, and was a top participant for both individually. However the largest group were lone Facebook users interacting once in the year with either news agency’s Facebook page. It appears both news agencies are at present reaching ever larger numbers of genuine personal Facebook accounts.

In conclusion, it’s apparent that NZ Herald is the clear winner over Stuff for courting engagement in New Zealand news on Facebook in 2014. However this dominance is not assured, and could change quickly.

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