Many of the leading UK and US news publishers are rapidly increasing their followings on Tiktok, according to a Press Gazette analysis.
Since May of last year, BBC News has dramatically upped its follower count from 35,200 to reach 784,200 in January 2023 – an increase of over 2000%.
The Evening Standard has increased its number of followers from 31,700 to 239,400 (up 655%). US-based medical news and information site, Healthline, meanwhile, has upped its followers from a smaller starting point of 1,722 to 11,100 (an increase of 545%).
Sky News - which recently reported that it was one of the fastest-growing news brands on Tiktok in the 12 months to November 2022 as well as the UK news broadcaster with the biggest following on the platform - increased its follower count by 200% since May to reach 3.3 million.
While news providers that joined the app early in many cases will have already amassed large follower counts of more than a million and will naturally have seen their relative growth slow down compared to brands that joined the app later, an analysis of the absolute numbers of followers added shows how early adopters are helping contribute to Tiktok’s growing reach for news.
Among the sites that we looked at for growth, Ladbible added the highest number of followers since May (2.7 million), followed by Sky News (2.2 million), US broadcaster ABC News (1.5 million) and Vice World News (1.4 million).
Since Tiktok does not make follower growth public on the platform, Press Gazette used Social Blade, a third party social media analytics tool to look at how much the following of the biggest newsbrands has grown in recent months.
The chart below includes the follower growth of the biggest sites in Press Gazette’s UK and US top 50 news rankings which Social Blade tracks. Since not every newsbrand is tracked, the below analysis is meant to be illustrative rather than a comprehensive list of the fastest-growing brands on Tiktok. We tracked newsbrands’ growth from May 2022 since most of the accounts in our analysis have been tracked by Social Blade from at least that month.
If you believe that your newsbrand should feature in the list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your historic Tiktok follower count.
Since launching in the UK 2018, Tiktok has emerged as a major force on social media. Initially, most news organisations had a marginal presence on the app or, in the case of some such as BBC News, shunned it altogether. 2022, however, marked a major change in newsbrands’ popularity on and use of Tiktok.
According to an Ofcom report published last year, Tiktok is the fastest-growing news source for UK adults.
A survey of 300 news leaders around the world from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism earlier this week found that Tiktok is the platform where newsrooms plan to step up their efforts most in 2023 to help engage young audiences. Another Reuters Institute report dedicated to Tiktok last year revealed that almost half (49%) of the leading publishers across dozens of countries are now active on Tiktok.
Among the factors helping newsbrands increase their reach on Tiktok has been the busy news cycle of 2022.
Sky News gained 230,000 new followers on the day of the Queen’s funeral alone, according to figures shared with Press Gazette by the broadcaster. Sky News also gained 600,000 new followers during the first five days of the war in Ukraine. Vice World News’ account similarly exploded in popularity during the war, gaining 900,000 new followers in the first three weeks following the invasion.
Who are the biggest news publishers on Tiktok?
To identify the biggest news publishers on Tiktok we took our latest UK and US top 50 news sites rankings and looked at the current follower count (as of 11 January) for those that have a presence on Tiktok. Where brands had more than one account - for example in different languages - we looked at the main account.
Of these sites, youth-focused publisher Ladbible had the biggest following at 11.4 million people. It was followed by ABC News (4.7 million). The Daily Mail, in third-place with 4.3 million followers was the best-ranked newspaper brand. Its most-viewed video of last year was watched 9.6 million times, the publisher told Press Gazette.
The DMGT-owned brand has invested heavily in its social media presence, including on newer networks such as Snapchat where its employs a 35-strong team.
Fellow British brand Sky News was the fifth-biggest news provider on Tiktok with 3.3 million followers, behind NBC (4 million).
The desire to access audiences are driving UK publishers to embrace Tiktok.
"UK publishers are really worried about access and audiences and that's the imperative both from public broadcasters whose audiences are no longer coming to television, but also subscription publishers who are really looking for the next generation of subscribers," Nic Newman of the Reuters Institute told Press Gazette last year.
Yet while large followings are helpful, unlike on other platforms they are not the only way to be successful. Tiktok’s algorithm means that content creators with relatively smaller followings can still garner large numbers of views. The same Reuters Institute Tiktok report of last year showed how some publishers such as The Sun punch above their weight on the app. The UK tabloid had times as many video views as Sky News, despite having a third of the broadcaster's followers.
Changes to the platform have helped make Tiktok more appealing to news publishers. The length of video that can be uploaded on the platform gradually increased from 30 seconds to ten minutes allowing for more explanatory and in-depth content.
Revenue opportunities on the platform are, however, still limited. There’s no direct way to monetise content on Tiktok through a share of ad revenues on videos, although some kind of advertising which will result in shared revenue is expected to be introduced on Tiktok this year.
Concerns over monetisation means that while some publishers see Tiktok as an opportunity to connect with Gen Z audiences and experiment with vertical video, others such as the New York Times are still largely opting to stay away.
"Publishers are very ambivalent about Tiktok," Newman told Press Gazette's Future of Media podcast this week. "[Our report on Tiktok in December] showed that half were on Tiktok and half weren't on Tiktok and many of the ones who weren't on Tiktok weren't planning to go on Tiktok because they were worried about the fact there's no revenue.
"But if you just look at it from the audience point of view, obviously it's growing very fast. It's where young people are and that's why we see publishers in [our news leaders survey] saying that they're going to put a lot more effort into it this year."
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