Is Traditional Media Succeeding in Social Media?

As the traditional media industry continues to experience massive disruption, have you ever considered how it has reacted to social media?

While continuing to contract, media companies still enjoy vast audiences, both online and via their traditional channels.  But as media consumption migrates from destination web sites to social media (think Facebook’s instant articles), I wonder how traditional media has reacted and whether lessons could be learned from those who have reacted well?

To get at some answers, I analyzed digital performance of almost 2,000 television stations and newspapers.  I looked at their monthly unique users and social media stats to identify best practices.  To learn more about how the database was created and what it contains, see the detailed description at the bottom of this post.

This Google map shows the actual properties used for this study with newspapers in blue and television stations in red.  If you click on a marker, you’ll see specifics about each property.

The most interesting top-level finding is that television stations seem to have developed a greater social media following than newspapers.  While the two groups receive roughly the same number of monthly uniques per site, tv stations have almost twice as many Facebook fans on a per site basis.

The graph below summarizes the top-line findings.  An average Newspaper website receives about 325,000 monthly unique users compared to about 290,000 for the average tv stations website.  But look at the number of Facebook fans for each.  The average tv station fan page has over 100% more when compared to average newspaper site.  If you further look at the “engaged” Facebook users, those who are talking about posts, the tv station advantage is almost 400%.


But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Many variables exist and additional blog posts will explore questions such as:

  • How else is the newspaper industry different from the television industry?
  • What criteria determines better performance?
  • Does a large corporate parent make a difference?
  • How do larger properties compare to smaller ones?
  • Within the television industry, do affiliates of a network matter?
  • Are certain geographic markets more inclined to use social media?
  • Can best practices be identified at the individual site level?
  • Can we learn from sites that record strong social metrics?
  • Is usage of Twitter more pronounced by some and/or Facebook by others?
  • Do daily newspapers outperform weeklies?

Over the next few weeks I’ll take a deep dive into answering those questions.  My work has yielded a vast array of interesting conclusions.


By accessing available APIs and writing a series of scrapers I was able to gather data on over 7,000 newspapers and television stations.  The list was vast and included well-known entities as well as many specialized stations and publications.  Only the prominent entities actually had well-trafficked websites.  The list shrunk considerably — to just under 2,000 — when I included only those with available web traffic data.  Most of those websites also supported Twitter and Facebook accounts.  In some cases multiple traditional media properties shared a single website. Given these facts, this analysis focuses on the 1,200 newspapers and 700 or so television stations that made this initial cut.