Fox 32 Chicago was named Newswhip’s most engaging publisher last month. Source: Newscast Studio.

Why is Fox 32 Chicago such a Facebook success? Lessons for publishers

LAST month, Chicago local news affiliate Fox 32 was named the most engaging Facebook news publisher by NewsWhip.

With an average 3.16 interaction rate per post, per user, Fox 32 won the race against industry juggernauts like the Daily Mail and daddy site, Fox News.

A snapshot of Newswhip’s “Most Engaged Audiences on Facebook” for September 2017. Source: Newswhip

Interestingly, Fox 32 doesn’t exactly have the most massive following on the social network, not especially when compared to global news giants like, say, BBC News or CNN. At last count, the local news site had something like 1.3 million followers, while BBC News had 44 million and CNN about 29 million.

So, what’s the secret behind Fox 32’s success?

Local and beyond

On average, Fox 32’s site gets 80 percent of its traffic from referrals from social media, with the majority coming from Facebook, Adam Zielinski, a senior web producer at the station told Digiday in a recent interview.

It seems that on Facebook, it pays to broaden coverage to beyond the backyard for local news stations. According to Zielinksi, Fox 32 posts to Facebook around 40 to 50 times per day, with around half of those posts centering on topics beyond local Chicago news.

The search for content to share through Facebook and other social media channels is a station-wide effort, says Zielinksi. Using communication platform Slack to converse, everyone gets involved in the pitching of ideas, from the sales team to on-air talent.

Third-party tools

The success of Fox 32’s Facebook engagement can also be attributed to the use of third-party tools to discover trending stories and videos.

CrowdTangle, Share Rocket and Banjo are just a few examples of tools aimed to help users find the most popular stories and video content daily.  

Instant articles

Furthermore, the introduction of Facebook’s ‘Instant Articles’ feature has appeared to have aided in Fox 32’s storming success, with the company publishing all of its stories in this format from last year.

The Facebook instant article feature allows content users to load articles immediately, giving them what they want with minimal waiting time.

“We look at Instant Articles as, ‘This is Facebook’s preferred way for getting users,’” Zielinski said. “We’ve found big success in that realization.”

Whilst Fox 32 are advocates for Facebook’s ‘Instant article’ feature, many other news stations are not so fond.

Publishers fear that Facebook could absorb so much of its news content that the web itself could be at risk.

“Platforms are eating our business, and we’re letting it happen,” wrote Mat Yurow, then director of audience development at The New York Times.

Live video

Fox 32 is also a strong believer in the power of live video, using the feature four to 10 times a day streaming content such as weather updates and traffic news.

Despite the successful engagement that Fox 32 has derived from Facebook, Zielinksi adds that he strives to create balance in how the news company’s audience get its content.

According to Zielinski, for the past six months, Fox 32 have been using Facebook as a way of promoting its mobile app, noting a growth in download numbers since doing so.

“One of the dangers with social media and publishers is how much content is being absorbed on these platforms,” Zielinski adds.