The Cost of Being Late on Social Media

A study of four top news organizations reveals that being the first to publish a story can yield high reader engagement, while delaying can result in hardly any engagement at all.

Speed is the name of the game when it comes to digital media.

While the instinct of any good journalist is to wait until they have all of the facts before going live with a story, publishing a story quickly can be a key factor in online publishing success.

Fanpage Karma, provider of online social media analytics, examined how quickly four top news organizations — CNN, Fox News, USA Today and The New York Times — published a story and how speed impacted reader engagement.

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Fanpage Karma CMO Stephan Eyl told Social Times:

Engagement is measured as daily average of the sum of likes, comments, shares divided by number of fans.

Fox News had the highest engagement on average, but it was also quick to get stories out. For instance, Fox was first to publish a story about the first Western Ebola patient. As a result of this quick work, Fox captured the lion’s share of reader engagement. CNN, which published the story a mere 10 minutes later was able to get some engagement, while the Times lagged behind nearly an hour and hardly got any attention.

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Fox was also first to publish the story about the charges against Amanda Knox being dropped. Again, Fox had the highest reader engagement, followed this time by USA Today. The Times was last to the party, once again, but only by 15 minutes. Still, Fox’s speed resulted in the highest engagement surrounding this highly discussed topic.

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In the case of the Germanwings flight 9525 story, Fox was first to publish, beating out CNN by two minutes. This was the one instance in which CNN actually garnered higher engagement than Fox. USA Today lagged behind the other two publishers nearly 30 minutes, and the Times didn’t publish the story until 45 minutes after CNN. The result is that both publications lost out on reader engagement.

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USA Today and CNN were only a minute apart publishing the Superbowl XLIX story and captured the highest engagement. Fox was third and despite its tendency to get higher engagement on average, the five minute delay resulted in lost ground.

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This data clearly indicates that speed is indeed important when it comes to capturing reader engagement. Fox might be first to a story on a regular basis, but sometimes its reporters get things wrong and have to apologize.

Still, Fox is a popular and trusted online news sources according to a Pew Research survey; but CNN topped the same list as the publisher people know and trust the most. So perhaps speed and accuracy are crucial to establishing and maintaining credibility in the digital medium. Too bad the Times fails on the first front and loses out on the second as a result.