As people spend more time using their phones to follow the news and trends, social media has become increasingly important for media brands to reach readers.
Last year, almost 58 percent of all web visits were driven by mobile use and the remaining 42 percent came from desktop, according to researcher Perficient Digital. Although desktop use retains people for longer than mobile (about 11 minutes and six minutes, respectively) mobile is still driving traffic and reach, something media brands need to grow in order to gain ad revenue. And they are gaining on it. Researcher eMarketer projects ad spend for mobile will hit $93 billion this year, making it the largest single ad market in the U.S. The next largest is TV, with an expected $69 billion in ad spend this year.
While search is vital to any media company’s brand and to driving traffic, social media also does that, as well as raise awareness of a magazine or news outlet more generally. Given its continued reach and importance, here WWD breaks down the 13 biggest media brands by social audience as of June, combining Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
1. National Geographic, 182 million followers
With its focus on photography, National Geographic has a sweet spot on Instagram with 112 million followers. Facebook comes in at 46 million “likes” and Twitter with 23 million. The magazine also has the most successful strategy of brand offshoots on social. Accounts for National Geographic Traveler have 45 million followers; National Geographic Magazine has 22 million total followers, and National Geographic Adventure has 15 million.
2. ESPN The Magazine, 66.7 million followers
Even with a massive following, ESPN’s 21-year-old magazine is shutting down in print after September. When the Disney-owned company revealed its plan at the end of April, it said the “vast majority” of its readers consumed its content, including pieces that ran in print, on digital platforms, leaving print to serve little purpose. The outlet has the most followers on Twitter with 34 million, followed by close to 20 million on Facebook and 13 million on Instagram.
3. The New York Times, 66.2 million followers
The Times, like every other newspaper in the U.S., experienced severe financial fallout in the wake of the Great Recession. But in the decade since, it’s pulled through, led by its expanding digital business and a successful online-only subscription model. The paper has the majority of followers on Twitter, with 43.8 million, with 16 million on Facebook and more than six million on Instagram.
4. Vogue, 46.4 million followers
Again, with its focus on fashion and celebrity, Vogue is unsurprisingly big on Instagram, where it has almost 24 million followers. The magazine has also eagerly embraced the Kardashian-Jenner clan, which arguably contributed to some of its early growth on the platform. But its nearly 14 million followers on Twitter and nine million on Facebook are nothing to sneeze at.
5. Food Network Magazine, 45.5 million followers
The Food Network is popular on TV, so it’s no wonder a magazine for recipes and products would find a following online. But its demo is largely on Facebook, where it has about 32 million followers. Instagram is a far-off second with nine million followers and Twitter with just under five million.
6. The Economist, 36.3 million followers
While it calls itself a “newspaper” and is far from photo-heavy, tweeting about its features, data and articles from its luxury publication 1873 has gained The Economist a large following of nearly 24 million on Twitter. Facebook is next, with nine million followers, then Instagram, with 3.5 million followers.
7. Huffington Post, 23.5 million followers
The first digital-only media brand on the list. With its news and opinion focus, Twitter is HuffPo’s largest platform with 11.5 million followers, and Facebook is next with 10 million followers. Instagram is less popular for the brand, with a relatively few two million followers.
8. BuzzFeed, 22.4 million followers
As the original purveyor of memes and “viral” content, BuzzFeed is biggest on Facebook, with 11 million followers. Adding hard news to the mix in recent years, the outlet’s audience on Twitter has grown to 6.5 million and Instagram, where it focuses on light content and lists, has almost five million followers.
9. The Washington Post, 22.1 million followers
Similar to the Times, the Post had a scary postrecession time of it, but was bought several years ago by Amazon founder and currently the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos. Although privately owned by Bezos, meaning its financials are not disclosed like the public Times, the Post has built out its investigative units and certainly experiences a “Trump bump” with aggressive coverage of the Trump administration. It’s also built up its digital business and social followings, with nearly 14 million followers on Twitter, 6.2 million on Facebook and two million on Instagram.
10. People, 21.63 million followers
As a relatively safe place for celebrities to go for their own news (outside of their own Instagram feeds), and its mix of royals, true crime and even some investigative work, People roundly beats other celebrity magazines in terms of audience size. The magazine has a relatively even audience size across the three platforms, with 7.7 million followers on Facebook, 7.5 million on Twitter and 6.5 on Instagram.
11. NowThis, 19 million
The video-only outlet, part of Group Nine, came up during a brief time when new media brands were not only launching on digital, but also only on Facebook. Being so platform-dependent didn’t work out for many brands, but NowThis managed and quickly built out its own site and other social platforms. Nevertheless, NowThis still has its biggest audience on Facebook, with 15 million followers. Twitter is second, with about 2.5 million, and Instagram followers number just under two million.
12. Elle, 16.5 million followers
Even though the focus of Elle is largely fashion and celebrity, it’s also big on reported features. So its largest following is actually on Twitter, where it has almost seven million. Facebook is second with 4.3 million followers and then Instagram with 4.3 million.
13. The New Yorker, 16.3 million followers
Rounding out the list is The New Yorker. The magazine’s largest following is on Twitter, where it has 8.6 million followers and publishes a mix of its news content, but also plenty of cartoons and humor pieces from its “Shouts & Murmurs” section, all of which tend to play well on the platform. Facebook and Instagram are very close in size, with 4.2 million and 3.4 million followers, respectively.
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