Once largely shunned for news, many of the leading UK and US news publishers have rapidly increased their followings on Instagram according to an updated Press Gazette analysis.
Among the newsbrands we looked at, US-based Healthline Media, which publishes Medical News Today and Psych Central, upped its follower count by 100% between June 2021 and June 2023 to reach 1.06 million followers.
Our group of 50 newsbrands was decided by extracting the 50 most-followed publishers on Instagram from our monthly rankings of the biggest newsbrands in the UK and US,
Conservative US publisher Daily Wire increased its number of followers from 1.41 million to 2.4 million (up 59%), while third fastest-growing was New York Post. The News Corp-owned tabloid increased its following by 56% from 583,000 to 911,400, according to data from Crowdtangle, a social insights tool owned by Facebook and Instagram owner Meta.
While growth rates were unsurprisingly higher on Tiktok, which is a newer platform where publishers are still discovering what works and investing in growing their follower counts, the figures show that publishers are able to access a greater number of followers on Instagram.
The 50 newsbrands with the biggest followings on Instagram amassed a total of 196.7 million followers combined (not de-duplicated), compared to 52.2 million across the 50 biggest newsbrands on TikTok earlier this year. Both platforms are favoured by younger audiences; almost 70% of Instagram's user base is under 34.
Among the brands we looked at, BBC News has added the most followers in the last two years, upping its follower count by 7.4 million people from 18.3 million to 25.7 million. The account has grown rapidly since early 2018 when BBC News had 4.4 million followers.
The pandemic provided a boost to major newsbrands, which saw their Instagram accounts grow as the Covid-19 pandemic led to a demand for trusted news sources on various platforms.
Who are the biggest news publishers on Instagram?
To identify the biggest news publishers on Instagram we took our latest UK and US top 50 news sites rankings and looked at the current follower count (as of 26 June) for those that have a presence on Instagram.
We found that Instagram was much more widely used than Tiktok among this list of newsbrands. Where brands had more than one account - for example in different languages - we looked at the main account only. The table presents the 50 newsbrands with the biggest follower counts.
BBC News has the biggest following on Instagram and was also the only brand to top 20 million followers, a milestone it passed in December 2021.
It was followed by CNN (19.3 million), New York Times (17.2 million) and Ladbible (13 million), which was the highest-ranked UK newsbrand after the BBC. The Guardian (rank 11, 5.6 million followers) was the best-ranked UK newspaper brand.
Three of the ten biggest were broadcasters (BBC, CNN and Fox News). Overall, across all 50 sites, 13 were broadcasters, and 33 were from the US.
The Daily Mail, which was in the top three newsbrands on Tiktok at the time of our last ranking, came in lower in our Instagram ranking in 29th place (1.6 million followers).
While five years ago, Instagram was barely used for news, news publishers have taken to the platform in recent years. Instagram is now the second fastest-growing platform for news and the most-used social network among 18 to 24-year-olds overall in 12 major news markets, according to the 2023 Reuters Digital News Report.
Some 14% of respondents in 2023 said they used Instagram for news compared to 1% in 2014, placing it ahead of Twitter.
In addition, a survey of over 300 news leaders around the world from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism earlier this year revealed that news leaders planned to step up their efforts on Instagram more than on any other social platform, with the exception of Tiktok. A net 50 respondents said that they would be putting more effort into distribution and engagement via Instagram compared to 63 for Tiktok and -30 for Facebook.
Although Instagram started in 2010 as a photo sharing app, it has recently embraced video to compete with the likes of Tiktok and Youtube. In 2020, the company introduced Instagram Reels, a full-screen Tiktok-like vertical format which publishers including Reach and ITV News have embraced.
Correction: This article was amended on 3 July 2023 to include the figures for Bloomberg's news account @bloombergbusiness as a previous version of this article had incorrectly included figures for its corporate account, @bloomberg.
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