Stories from The Guardian are tweeted on average 392,358 times per week making it the most popular newspaper in the UK on Twitter.

This is followed by The Daily Telegraph (307,690 tweets) in second place and the Daily Mail (237,381 tweets) in third, meaning that the Daily Mail’s content is 92,000 tweets less popular than The Guardian’s.

However that’s not to say that The Guardian creates the most shareable individual stories, that win does in fact go to the Daily Mail.

Here we’ll take a look at the study from Searchmetrics looking at the top 10 newspapers on Twitter, the top 10 most shared articles and a quick look to see if anything can be learnt from the top newspaper.

Most Popular UK Newspaper Websites on Twitter:

  1. The Guardian – 392,358 tweets per week
  2. The Daily Telegraph – 307,690 tweets per week
  3. Daily Mail – 237,381 tweets per week
  4. Independent – 214,868 tweets per week
  5. The Mirror – 113,194 tweets per week
  6. Financial Times – 61,065 tweets per week
  7. Daily Express – 24,165 tweets per week
  8. Daily Record – 11,107 tweets per week
  9. The Times – 8,772 tweets per week
  10. Daily Star – 6,556 tweets per week
  11. The Sun – 3,531 tweets per week

Nearly three-fifths of Twitter’s 15m UK users follow at least one national newspaper or journalist. However, it’s not necessarily the biggest or most important stories that drive the most tweets.

As we can see from the following table, the Daily Mail’s story on how to make homemade dog food was the most tweeted story of 2014.

Most frequently Tweeted Newspaper Website Stories of 2014:

  1. Daily Mail – Paw-fect recipes for your pet’s plate: The cooking show that teaches dog owners how to prepare homemade treats for their four-legged friends – 76,752 tweets 
  2. Daily Mail – WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Jack the Ripper unmasked: How amateur sleuth used DNA breakthrough to identify Britain’s most notorious criminal 126 years after string of terrible murders – 37,192 tweets
  3. The Daily Telegraph – Revealed: the Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces – 23,830 tweets
  4. The Mirror – Devoted dad makes best Halloween costume ever for his disabled son – 21,584 tweets
  5. The Guardian – Turkish women defy deputy PM with laughter – 20,762 tweets
  6. The Independent – Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after shot by Ohio police – 20,629 tweets
  7. The Independent – Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove ‘stupid’ sign suggesting superheroes are ‘for boys’ – 20,377 tweets
  8. Daily Mail – 36 now feared dead in Japanese volcano disaster – 19,611 tweets
  9. The Mirror – Fury as Tory party donors are handed NHS contracts worth £1.5bn under health reforms – 18,041 tweets
  10. The Sun – Heaven ’n Ell Revealed: The stunner in Heyman’s corner – 17,852 tweets

There’s no particular correlation to these stories, perhaps one of the only conclusions you can draw out of this is that in the face of naturally occurring tragedy, gun violence, the dismantling of the NHS and misogyny, the UK’s love of dogs and terrible puns will always win out.

The Guardian on Twitter

So what explains The Guardian’s success? Although it has no outright most tweeted article, it still manages to shore-up a massive amount of shares. The answer to this could well be in frequency.

The Guardian in the last 24 hours (between Mon 19 Jan and Tues 20 Jan) has tweeted its content more than 300 times. The Daily Mail on the other hand has only tweeted around 40 times.

If you’re one of The Guardian’s 3.15m followers you can expect to receive around 12 tweets per hour, and that’s if you only follow its main news channel. The Guardian has separate channels for Sport, Tech, Film, Books, Politics, Style Guide, in fact I stopped counting once I got to 30. Even the Tech channel has an impressive 2.35m followers and tweets around 20 times a day.

The Daily Mail comparatively only has 835,000 followers and fewer separate channels, in fact just five or six including Celebrity and specific UK, US and Australia news.

Clearly with the huge amount of tweets it sends and a much larger audience, The Guardian’s ability to drive shares and engagement will be difficult to top. I would also imagine that as the political agenda of both newspapers is so contrasting, that they share very few followers therefore individual tweets based on the same story are difficult to compare.

Although what is most apparent with both The Guardian and the Daily Mail’s tweets is how they merely reiterate the headlines of the articles, which is a sure sign of automation.

Optimising tweets according to social channel and audience with tone of voice, a variation in content and plenty of images are proven ways to drive more engagement. Although its current strategy clearly works for The Guardian, with a more natural, human approach would make it even more appealing.

Then again, do Twitter users actually want that from serious news outlets? Sure personalisation works for brands across retail, fashion and food industries, but it’s likely people follow The Guardian or similar purely for a feed of latest headlines.

Paywalls

Languishing at the bottom of the chart is The Sun, one of only two newspaper publishers featured that keeps its content behind a paywall.

Even though The Sun is the most widely circulated newspaper in the country, its Twitter account only has 682,000 followers and its tweets are rarely shared more than 10 times.

Paywalls have a habit of killing social sharing, it’s annoying to be tweeted a link to an interesting article only to find this barrier to reading it.

This happens every time you click on Sun tweet. 

The only exception to this is Financial Times, a newspaper behind a paywall that still manages to drive 61,065 tweets per week despite the barrier. It does allow free access to three articles per month if you sign up.

Also, it has 1.52m followers and its more specialist content has found an audience happy to pay for it.

It seems however that if you’re general news outlet covering a range of topics, and you want to invest in social to drive traffic then a paywall is not the way to go.