BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and sharing-focused websites: A social media analysis

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Digital Media, Newspapers

BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and sharing-focused websites: A social media analysis

Update 1:15pm: BuzzFeed US and Huffington Post US stats are now included.

Update 9:35am: To make it more of a fair comparison, we're working on throwing BuzzFeed US and Huffington Post US data in to the mix, and we'll update this post later on this morning.


Following on from our snapshot of UK newspaper social sharing habits article, we thought we'd take a similar look at sites that have built their business models around social sharing. 

We took the 100 most recent articles promoted from each organisation's UK Twitter feed and ran them through to get the number of Facebook shares, Tweets, +1s, Pins, and LinkedIn shares for:

  • BuzzFeed UK
  • Upworthy
  • UsVsTh3m
  • The Huffington Post UK
  • Quartz.

We also decided to pit the nationals from our previous post against some of the sharing-focused sites to see how well they fare against each other.

Like our newspaper analysis, we'd stress that this is a quick snapshot of how these sites fare. Analysing 100 different articles at a different point in time may produce different results, so in the interests of editorial balance, if you've done some analysis of your own then let us know what you discovered.

Upworthy blows everyone out of the Facebook water

Facebook: The take-home message here is that Upworthy is dominating Facebook compared to everyone else. Its 100 most recent articles received more than 7 times the total Facebook shares of BuzzFeed USA, and 11 times the total of BuzzFeed UK. Although bottom of the pile, business-news website Quartz actually fares quite well considering its audience is smaller and more niche.

Twitter: BuzzFeed USA and UK jointly take the Twitter crown, however, totalling up to 1.6 and 1.5 times more Tweets, respectively, from 100 articles than Upworthy. BuzzFeed UK does particularly well here as Upworthy has around 10 times more Twitter followers. 

LinkedIn: BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and UsVsTh3m all have relatively insignificant LinkedIn stats, which is to be expected given their content and audiences. Quartz performs very well here, which (given its a business news website performing well on a business-based social media platform) suggests its social media strategy is working effectively.

Pinterest: BuzzFeed and Upworthy again perform well on Pinterest, which is well suited to the image-heavy posts they produce.

Upworthy's dominance on Facebook is particularly impressive given that – as The Atlantic pointed out – it only publishes around 225 articles a month (meaning that our analysis of 100 articles is roughly two weeks worth of content from the site). In comparison, the 100 articles we analysed from BuzzFeed UK/US constitute roughly two days worth of publishing.

But are all Upworthy posts doing well, or are a minority generating most of its success across the different social media platforms? We found that:

  • The 10 articles with the most Facebook shares generated 65 percent of all Facebook shares
  • The 10 articles with the most Tweets generated 65 percent of all Tweets
  • The 10 articles with the most +1s generated 57 percent of all +1s
  • The 10 articles with the most Pins generated 86 percent of all Pins
  • The 10 articles with the most LinkedIn shares generated 68 percent of all LinkedIn shares
Of the 10 most Tweeted and 10 most Facebooked Upworthy articles, four overlap. Altogether this paints a picture of a minority of content generating most of the site's social media success.


Newspapers have a lot to learn from sharing-focused sites

The gulf between BuzzFeed UK and everyone else is obvious, but it demonstrates just how good they are at sharing content online. This is fundamental to the way in which they make money and they're very adept at it.

However, as with Upworthy, a minority of the site's content is generating most of its impact:

  • The 10 articles with the most Facebook shares generated 53 percent of all Facebook shares
  • The 10 articles with the most Tweets shares generated 37 percent of all Tweets
  • The 10 articles with the most +1s generated 59 percent of all +1s
  • The 10 articles with the most Pins generated 48 percent of all Pins
  • The 10 articles with the most LinkedIn shares generated 80 percent of all LinkedIn shares.

Two-thirds of the 100 BuzzFeed UK articles we analysed received less than 100 shares on Facebook, and half received less than 100 Tweets. BuzzFeed is well aware of this, and staff freely admit that creating content people want to share is not an exact science.

UsVsTh3m's Facebook share total is in the same ballpark as the Mail Online's and it's not too far away from the Guardian's. Considering they're only seven months old and have a team of eight (compared to the 460 at the Mail Online and around 550 editorial staff at the Guardian) this is very impressive. They actually out-perform the Mail Online when it comes to Twitter.

It's worth noting that if we throw Facebook likes and comments into the mix, The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed outperform Upworthy by a long way.

What does this mean? 

These sites have taken the activity on social media and built business models around it. Yet for traditional media businesses pursuing an ad-funded model such as the Guardian and Mail Online, taking advantage of that desire to share is a valuable way of building audiences and driving traffic. 

The Guardian does considerably better on Twitter than the Mail Online, but both pale into insignificance when compared to BuzzFeed UK, and the Facebook gap is even wider.

We haven't broken down BuzzFeed's posts into sponsored and non-sponsored posts, so we don't have our own indication of how well the site's native advertising approach is working, but the company's pitch to advertisers is that they can consistently deliver posts that people want to share.

Meanwhile Upworthy and UsVsTh3m are only just exploring ways to turn their social media success into revenue. 

Another point worth making: these social business models are dependent on the social platforms they reach their readers through. That makes them vulnerable

Nevertheless, there's a lot traditional media can learn from these sites about how to take advantage of social media channels to find huge audiences online.


And in case you were wondering about Ampp3d...

They hadn't produced 100 articles by the time we collected the data, but they nevertheless racked up some impressive stats for their first week.


Data was harvested from each organisation's Twitter feed on December 13th.

If you have any suggestions on how we can use data to enhance our reporting then please get in touch below the line.

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