Can you put a price on press coverage?
Well, while the right coverage is priceless, many press mentions come at a cost.
In fact, newswires exist for this very reason.
Despite the outlay, we often use these services because they near enough guarantee coverage and attention.
Why? Because newswires syndicate your content and PR.
That means they push out your story to a range of publications who republish or re-write that content, and (hopefully) drop you a reference.
But what if there were another way?
What if you didn’t have to pay for the privilege of coverage?
What if you could zero in on existing content / PR syndication networks, and pitch directly to publishers that other publications love referencing?
What if you could get more mileage out of your coverage, as your story spreads organically?
Wouldn’t that be the dream?!
Well luckily, you might be able to do just that, with our findings below...
Five years on, we’ve decided to do our own analysis of publication networks, to show you how to capitalize on existing relationships, refine your content syndication strategy, and save a pretty penny.
We analyzed millions of links sent between the world's top 100 most engaging publishers, over the last year.
For each individual publication, we discovered their top 10 publication connections.
The top 10 were picked from within the same pool of publications (ie. the top 100), so that we focused on links (and inferred syndication) between the highest authority publications.
This allowed us to analyze:
And more. Here's what we found...
Before we get going, if you're still a tad confused about what PR syndication actually means, here's a quick example.
A few years ago, Yelp published their local economic impact report.
The data was picked up by CNBC and written up as a feature piece on business closures, which then went on to gain natural coverage in 1K+ media outlets…
… from the likes of major publications including The Daily Mail, Fox News, Huff Post, and more.
Plenty of these publishers created feature stories paraphrasing Yelp's original research, some just mentioned the research in passing, and others copied it verbatim.
This led to Yelp’s original research (on their own site) syndicating in over 600 publications…
If you want to find out how you could do the same, keep reading…
Read more about how to use the chart below or jump to the methodology to get the detail on how we analyzed this data, and why we chose specific metrics.
Hovering over a publication in the chart will show the publications sending links to them, and the publications they link out to.
If you can’t view a connection due to visual overlap in data, click + drag the publication to a different position.
You can also hold down on the publication you’re viewing, and the related publications will orbit around it to give you a better view.
A few (maybe unsurprising) things become clear when you start digging into the chart:
"This fascinating data visualization speaks to the often overlooked 'unofficial' connections between top publishers.
If you prioritize pitching authoritative sites that often syndicate stories, you increase your chances of getting significantly more value for each piece of content (and each pitch!)."
Let’s start by analyzing the most engaging, individual connections between publications.
Scroll through the slider to see them in order.
Here’s a couple of things to note about these connections…
Slide 1: The Washington Post → Associated Press News
The Associated Press is a different kind of publication in that it’s technically a “News agency”.
AP News hires journalists to write articles, which then get published on their “wire” (usually an RSS feed) to subscribing journalists or media outlets.
Judging by the engagement of the links sent from the Washington Post to AP News (580M), it can be assumed the WP syndicates a lot of AP News’ content.
If you manage to land coverage in AP News, you stand a good chance of being mentioned in the Washington Post, which offers the second-highest average engagement per article of all the publications we studied.
Slide 5: CBS News → CBS Sports
In total, the CBS News articles linking to CBS Sports carry a casual 340M engagements.
If you have a sports story to pitch CBS Sports, it’s very likely to get syndicated across CBS’ general news site.
And that site offers the highest average engagement per article of all the publications we studied (illustrated by the size of its circle).
Slide 6: Comcast
There is heavy interlinking between the Comcast family publications.
Out of all family affiliated groups, it sends the most engaging links to its own sibling publications.
In fact, it is one of the most closed-off family networks, sending 95.3% of its most engaging backlinks to its own publications.
"I *love* the research BuzzSumo is cranking out these days!
Understanding which sites have the largest syndication networks is crucial for Digital PR success: By targeting the most influential sites on any given topic, you can scale your results with the natural syndication that comes from the built-in networks and influence of these publishers.
What I love about BuzzSumo's research is it clearly demonstrates how UK sites can still help US clients earn relevant, high-authority .com links and PR traffic through syndication."
The publisher that lands the most references from other publishers overall is The Mirror, with 326K links.
But the publisher that earns the most engaging backlinks overall is Associated Press News; racking up 585M engagements from its connections.
What does this mean? Well, although The Mirror earns the most links, if you win a pitch there, your story won’t necessarily get syndicated in the most engaging articles.
And ultimately, that means less coverage.
Think of it like this: Landing 100 links sounds impressive, but if the content containing those links earns zero engagement, then that’s a whole lot of nothing.
It’s like performing at The Colosseum… to nobody.
Whereas if you earn 10 links from 10 articles that land 50K engagements – yes the number of links is lower – but the quality of the coverage is significantly better.
Like performing in an intimate, yet packed-out venue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to an audience that hangs off your every word.
So, when it comes to the quality of a link, AP News wins out.
The Metro, The Mirror, BBC, CBS Sports, and Rolling Stone win in both areas – these publications likely benefit from strong story syndication.
At BuzzSumo, we contextualize all our backlinks with engagement data, to help you prioritize your most engaging coverage.
Earlier this year, Google made an official statement to say the canonical link element is no longer recommended for the “republished” form of content syndication (ie. content that has been copied verbatim) – as reported by Barry Schwartz in Search Engine Land.
Instead, it told PRs and publishers to no-index syndicated articles to avoid duplication, and prevent them from outranking the original story.
This means audiences won’t be finding syndicated stories as easily in the SERPs.
But syndicated content still gets shared widely on social media, making social engagement an even more important metric to consider in your earned content syndication strategy.
"Content syndication can be a hotly-debated topic in the world of Digital PR. It’s important to understand how each network is connected (and you’ll probably be surprised at just how connected they are if you look at BuzzSumo’s research!).
It’s also really interesting to understand which publications have the most engaged with links, as of course, as much as we want a good quantity of links, links which actually get clicked on and engaged with are the dream.
In terms of syndication as a whole, approach this case-by-case with clients, discussing the pros such as brand awareness and traffic as well as keeping in mind your search goals."
First off, have a go at sorting the data to find out which family groups dominate in each category:
When you look purely at the number of links a family-owned publication earns, Reach PLC (Mirror, Daily Star etc.) takes top spot, racking up 670K backlinks in total across its own network.
But when it comes to the engagement of those backlinks, Reach PLC sits sorry in 7th place.
And when it comes to the average engagement it earns per article, Reach PLC drops to the bottom place (20th) of all the family networks.
Comcast publications, on the other hand, share the most engaging (internal) links of any family-owned publisher network overall.
In total, Comcasts' links (ie. within its own network) earn 680M engagements.
Hot on its heels with 670M backlink engagements is Penske Media Corporation, which consists of entertainment and lifestyle publications Variety and Billboard.
Pitch to the publications within these family groups for the best chance of syndicating your brand or client coverage across their network of highly engaging content.
Avoid pitching to Condé Nast publications if you want to tap into family PR link networks.
It is the least likely publication group to pass links internally.
In fact, the two Condé Nast titles that appear in our top 100 most engaging publications (Vanity Fair and Ars Technica) pass zero article links between one another.
To syndicate across as many family-owned groups as possible, pitch News Corp or Dotdash Meredith groups.
So far, we’ve found out a lot about content syndication opportunities within family-owned publisher networks.
But, it isn’t that surprising to discover that publications owned by the same organizations will cross-promote and upcycle each others’ stories.
So, what about the connections between unrelated publishers? Or even unrelated networks?
Landing coverage in a family network that naturally syndicates content is pro-tier PR.
But landing coverage in two (or more) of these networks will help you ascend to another level entirely.
We analyzed which family-owned content networks share some of the strongest, overlapping connections.
Here they are in order:
As we know, family publications are extremely likely to syndicate content across their own group…
So pitching publications that earn links from the greatest number of family networks is a shrewd move.
While the publishers above display incredibly strong ties, they aren’t necessarily the ones that earn syndication from the greatest variety of publishers.
NewsCorp and Paramount Global technically have syndication profiles of the widest variety, picking up links from 13 different publication groups apiece.
But their spread of backlink engagement is not evenly distributed, meaning some family groups send them links with minimal engagement – as you can see in the pie charts below.
Dotdash Meredith (People and Entertainment Weekly), on the other hand, has the most balanced split of link engagements from a wide variety of publications (8 different publication groups out of a possible 20)
Note that many family groups actually send more engaging links to DM than they send to themselves – ie. Jonah Peretti [BuzzFeed]).
Landing coverage in People, for example, gives your story the potential to be syndicated across 8 other ready-established syndication networks, if picked up by these family-owned publications.
What’s even better is that individual articles published on People see high average engagement, as evidenced by the size of the circle in our network graph (see below).
Meaning that both owned and earned engagement from this publication is likely to be very healthy.
If you’re looking to infiltrate the widest variety of publisher networks, and earn syndication from far and wide, pitch People and Entertainment Weekly.
"This syndication report by BuzzSumo is the most impressive one I've ever seen – 6 million links analyzed is nothing to sniff at.
This insight will be incredibly valuable in helping PRs decide what publications to target their efforts towards.
People often think of the value of backlinks in simple terms, but what BuzzSumo has proven in this comprehensive report is that one link can go a long way."
We’ve already seen that the single most engaging connection occurred between Washington Post and AP News – and thereafter all the most prominent links were between family-related publishers.
But what if we’d carried on down that list, until we found publishers that weren’t related?
Well luckily… we did! This list will help you find out which publishers advocate for each other organically, to inform your pitching.
In the table below, the “Source publication” represents the one sending links, and the “Target publication” is the one receiving them.
As you can see, the strongest syndication between unrelated publications comes from The Daily Mail, towards The Sun – meaning that if a Sun journalist picks up your pitch and publishes it, there is a significant possibility that your story will also be written up by a journalist at The Daily Mail.
Pitching to any of these target publications will exponentially increase your chances of syndicating your PR.
US agency Fractl use BuzzSumo's platform and data in their campaign research process to assess a publisher or journalist, based on their ability to earn syndication naturally.
You can read more about that here.
"This research was built upon years of manually tracking the syndication of our content marketing campaigns to increase our understanding of industry-level link networks that would help us naturally scale our results."
Kelsey Libert, Co-Founder Fractl
And you can also build syndication research into your PR from the outset, by using BuzzSumo in your brainstorming sessions.
Step 1: Head to the Content Analyzer
Step 2: Search your topic idea
Step 3: Limit your search to the publisher you want to pitch
Step 4: Sort by “Number of backlinks” to find their most link-worthy headlines.
Step 5: Analyze the kinds of stories your target publisher creates to pick up links
Step 6: “View backlinks” to get an idea of the kinds of publications you can expect syndication from.
Think about whether you can recreate the top link-driving stories in your own pitch, to have a greater chance of earning that free content syndication.
In some cases a topic may not get picked up by other publications full stop, in which case you might want to re-think your idea.
The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Unaffiliated publishers are either independently owned, or do not share a common owner with another publication.
The connections between unaffiliated publications shouldn’t be overlooked.
In fact, out of the 20 groups of publications we analyzed, Unaffiliated Publications ranked #8 when it came to the overall link engagement earned across the group; beating 12 family-owned publication networks.
Both the Washington Post and The New York Times receive a significant number of links from multiple sources in this category.
Looking at the top 20 most syndicated Unaffiliated Publishers (based on most engaging backlinks),
These publications will make for great pitching opportunities.
The New York Times and the Washington Post sit at the epicenter of Unaffiliated Publications, with multiple other publications sending highly engaging links back to them.
The Washington Post (WP) is also the top publication in the Unaffiliated Publisher category for average article engagement (see size of its circle above), earning 5,100 engagements per article.
Therefore, landing coverage in WP will give you a strong chance of earning both attention and links or syndication.
Interestingly, both of these publications sit behind a paywall and still manage to pick up a significant amount of engaging links.
Paywall publications earn 60% fewer backlinks and 63% less backlink engagement
If you’re weary of pitching to paywall publications, our data shows you’re right to be.
In our analysis, we identified 17 publications with paywalls, and 83 without.
Paywall publications are 60% less likely to be linked back to, and therefore syndicated.
Non-paywall publications are rewarded with over double the amount of backlinks, and nearly 3x more backlink engagement.
Raw Story references the widest variety of publications, but The Washington Post references the widest variety with the most engaging content.
If you were in any doubt that publications syndicate each others’ content, you no longer need be.
We found that 88% of the top 100 publications send links out to other publications, which is a strong indication of story syndication.
And 38% of those publications send their biggest number of links to publications outside of their own network/group.
For example, Vanity Fair, a Condé Nast-owned publication sends its greatest number of links to People Magazine, a Dotdash Meredith-owned publication.
This goes to show that links and syndication isn't just a practice carried out by related or family-owned publisher networks.
But out of the top 100, which publications are the top referees? Let’s take a look…
Raw Story passed links on to the greatest number of publishers via its content. Out of the 100 publications we analyzed, it sent links to 54 other publications.
However, Raw Story’s articles (ie. the ones containing those links) didn’t actually carry a whole lot of engagement, meaning that if Raw Story were to syndicate your coverage, it may not attract much attention.
A publisher that does send through big engagement to numerous publications, on the other hand, is the Washington Post.
The WP sends a cool 634M backlinks out to 41 of the top 100 publications.
If your campaign was most likely to get syndicated by any publisher, it’s this one.
If you’ve got to this point, you’ve heard a lot about who wins the syndication race in numerous categories.
But, ultimately, you just need to know who to pitch for the greatest chance of winning press and engagement.
We’ve got you covered.
The following publishers are most likely to do a good job of earning you syndication in engaging articles.
They demonstrate the highest numbers in all three areas (backlinks, backlink engagement, and average engagement.)
These publishers not only earn a high amount of links from other top publications, they earn engaging links, and when it comes to on-site factors, they drive big engagement too; when you divide their likes, shares, comments, and interactions by the number of articles they write, they earn hundreds if not thousands of engagements per article.
You can find journalists from these publications to pitch using BuzzSumo’s journalist database.
Just search the publication, topic, and any other criteria…
Then find the most relevant and engaging journalists, and add them to your media list.
Similarly to the report we’ve noticed when we gain pick up on key publications such as CNBC in the US, and the Dailymail in the UK, it leads to wider coverage and in some case TV coverage.
What I’d recommend doing as a PR is notice these connections and then focus on building key relationships with journalists at these publications.
It’s important to also notice which publications get the most social shares and engagement too, as these are the PERFECT publication for your audience.
We noticed this connection with a beauty brand of ours and one article went on to drive over 350,000 visits to our client's site and help sell out a product.
Making these connections can mean more than just press coverage it can mean revenue and brand growth”.
Now we know that 88% of publishers send some of their most engaging links to one another, let’s find out which ones are a little less generous with their link rewards.
These 12 publications are unlikely to syndicate your content in an engaging way:
If you want your brand or client to appear in these publications, avoid relying on earned syndication.
You don’t stand much chance of featuring in their articles by proxy.
Instead, pitch to them directly.
We took 650 PR campaign headlines and did a text analysis of the most commonly occurring one, two, and three-word phrases.
This included the sort of campaigns you often see in the press, like “You Can Get Paid To X”, or “World’s Happiest Countries”, or “Dream Job: Hundreds Apply To X.”
We then took those individual words and phrases, put them into BuzzSumo’s Content Analysis Report, and applied a “Domain” filter to limit our analysis to the top 100 most engaging publications.
This gave us the ability to discover which campaign types and topics drive the most links, on average, in top-tier media.
Location-specific headlines are a big link earner. Articles featuring the phrases “By state”, “Cities with the biggest”, “Top states”, “By country”, and so on, earn between nine and 17 links apiece.
In her report on “What Publishers Want”, Amanda Milligan notes that location-based headlines syndicate best as audiences have a vested interest in what happens in their “backyard”.
The other thing to note here is the element of comparison and ranking. Comparing different locations opens up your PR to numerous audiences, and appeals to publications that want to capture the interest of the masses.
If you want to make sure your PR stories naturally syndicate, you also need to be creating visual campaigns.
Take this headline from The Guardian, for example. It has earned 71 links over the last year.
While the visual / data in this article looks to have been curated by The Guardian, this is exactly the kind of content that you could create and pitch as part of your PR campaign.
Headlines containing the UK and US spellings of all variations of the word “Visualize” land between 12 and 22 links on average, which isn’t to be sniffed at, when you consider that all content published by the top 100 publications averages 7 links.
Creating visuals of your own, primary data also gives you the unique opportunity to gain links and syndication, since it makes it harder for publications to forgo a reference.
"It's really interesting to look at the data behind the most linked PR campaign topic, across the top 100 publishers. We are seeing a similar pattern at NORTH. When it comes to a campaign, journalists and publishers want to see hard data backing up the campaign. A brand or person telling a story isn't strong enough to cut through anymore. It needs hard data behind it to make it stand up and give it weight. Consumers love interesting stories, but they need facts and data behind it to differentiate the stories from gossip and rumour which is more prevalent than ever in today's news agenda.
Readers also like to read news and features that impact them directly, including where they are from. So it's no surprise to see regional content such as 'By state' and 'By county' proving popular in linked campaigns. The more relevant and personal you can make a campaign to individuals, the better its likely to perform.
Perhaps the most interesting takeout from the data is 'Visualisations'. The data shows that campaigns with a visual asset didn't feature heavily in the analysis, however when it came to the average number of links these campaigns came out on top. Digital PRs know how impactful visual campaigns are, and this data proves it. However budgets are getting tighter and campaigns with a visual asset can be costly and risky. This data suggests that though visual campaigns perform well, they are less common than they were a few years ago, with agencies and in-house teams being more cautious with budgets."
If you want to find out which headlines naturally syndicate across major media publications, just search your topic in the Content Analyzer, and hit the “Journalist” filter.
This will help you filter non-media content (ie. B2B content, or blogs), and hone in on press articles. If you need to refine the results further, change the “Publisher size” filter.
Then hit the Content Analysis Report tab, and pay attention to the average number of links the topic drives.