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Attention as currency: How German freesheets score in social media

Which topics most interest the users in social networks? Gogol Publishing investigated the most interactive articles in German weekly newspapers and measured so-called social signals resulting from likes, shares, comments and mentions on platforms such as Facebook, etc. An analysis with six Best-Practice examples.

Gogol Publishing, a supplier of editorial systems, investigated 193 editorial portals of weekly newspapers. With the aid of the Sistrix online analysis tool in which per portal 100 articles are listed that received the most likes, shares, comments or mentions on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, Gogol reaches the following conclusion: the most attention is attracted by articles on so-called “blue light” (i.e. police, accident reports, etc.) stories, human interest stories or those focusing on animals, event announcements as well as articles dealing with controversial topics.

Finding 1: Articles in the “Blue Light” category result in the most interactions in social networks

Because reports from different categories have different levels of interaction in social media, the survey is divided into five different groups. This is due to the fact that users are better able to identify with certain topics and want to share these with their friends. Other topics attract more attention and are therefore more often commented on. Reports on accidents and police activities are especially interesting to users on Facebook etc., which is why these receive the most social signals.

Finding 2: Category “Blue Light” – it is not only negative reporting that attracts a high level of attention, but also controversies and surprises

Generally speaking, negative events in the blue light category have an especially high level of interaction. The principle here is that the more negative the event is, the greater level of attention it will receive. However, the fact that positive articles in the blue light category also work well is demonstrated by the following example: “Getarnt gegen Motorrad-Raser”, an article describing how police officers, disguised as campers, set up a speed trap to catch speeding motorbike riders. The attention attracted by this article on social media platforms is based largely on the surprise factor – police officers disguised as tourists are not an everyday sight. Moreover, the question as to whether this operation is justified gave rise to a discussion in the accompanying comments. Consequently this surprising and controversial article resulted in above-average levels of interaction especially on  Facebook.

Finding 3: Category Panorama/Miscellaneous – stories of human interest and about animals achieve high levels of interaction on social media channels

In the Panorama/Miscellaneous category it is above all stories focusing on the human aspect – so-called human interest stories – that bring about high levels of social interactions. This is true especially for local news, as in many cases the readers know the persons about whom it is reported. An important dimension in such stories is the personalisation factor, i.e. the greater the focus on the actions or fate of individual persons, the higher the level of user interest. Besides human interest stories, articles about animals in this category also receive many social signals (five of the Top Ten stories). If accompanied by appropriate images – cute animal photos – these articles also achieve high levels of interaction, as evidenced by an article telling the story of the first officially certified water rescue dog (Geschichte über den ersten geprüften Wasserrettungshund) attached to the Augsburg Red Cross. The article is a mixture of human interest and animal story, therefore ideally qualifying it for the social media.

Finding 4: Category Cultural and Club Life – personal interest in local events guarantees high social signal values for event announcements

In the category Cultural and Club Life, articles about local events perform especially well on Facebook, etc. The reason for the high level of interaction is the direct interest of the users to participate in the event, e.g. the lecture of a forensic specialist about his most spectacular cases (Vortrag eines Forensikers über seine spektakulärsten Fälle) The fact that the event deals with such an unusual subject ensures the article an especially high level of attention. The social signal values for this type of article benefit especially from mention in the comments area which Facebook users avail of to draw the attention of their friends to the event. An aimed intensification of such an approach can additionally increase the level of reach.

Finding 5: Category Local Politics – politically controversial topics generate the most social signals

The more disputed a topic, the more controversial the discussion, the greater number of comments there will be below the articles and the more frequently the articles will be shared in order to emphasise the users' own arguments. A good example of this trend in the local politics category can be seen in an article dealing with a demonstration opposing the opening of a branch office of the AfD party (Demonstration gegen die Eröffnung eines AfD-Büros in Lichterfelde Ost). In this article the nationwide controversy concerning the right-wing, populist political party was seized on at local level and the discussion continued on Facebook. The fact that opinions vary greatly in relation to the AfD  can be seen by the large number of comments on this article.

Finding 6: Category Local Sports – local success stories as a key factor

In order to make full use of the potential for increasing the leach in the local sports category, publishers should focus on local success stories. Articles about successful local sports personalities or sports teams generate the most social signals here, as the readers in many cases personally know the sports personalities or can strongly identify with them due to the geographical proximity. In addition, the success of these sports personalities reinforces the identification of the readers with their home region and therefore also the level of interest in local news. News about success in niche sports disciplines (Erfolge in Nischensportarten) can also produce strong feelings of local identification.


Publishers can request an individual evaluation of the study from Gogol Publishing. This consists of a detailed analysis and benchmarking of the article with the highest level of interaction of their own portal as well as concrete tips for increasing reach on social media platforms.

Nicole Scherer
Phone: +49 821 907 844-64

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