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The BBC and The Guardian are the most dominant UK news outlets in terms of the number of shares on Twitter, according to new data from PeerIndex.

UK Twitter users shared just over 4.2m articles from BBC News in January 2014, which apparently resulted in more than 100bn potential impressions of BBC content to Twitter users globally.

In comparison, content from The Guardian was shared 2.4m times via Twitter while The Telegraph came in third with 913,000 shares.

The research also shows the negative impact that paywalls have on social sharing, as The New York Times is the only paid-for online publications to make the top 10. For more on The NYT's business model, read our report on its recent native advertising trial.

Interestingly the Mail Online is only fifth on the list with 453,000 shares, despite the fact that it is the world’s most popular news website with close to 190m global monthly unique browsers in January.

The Guardian achieved 100m fewer global monthly users (90m) in the same time period while The Telegraph and Independent, both of which achieved more Twitter shares than the Mail Online, attracted 68m and 34m global monthly users respectively.

UK Media Twitter Share Index, January 2014 (top 20)

Without more in-depth analysis of user behaviour, site design and audience type it’s difficult to pinpoint the specific reasons for the difference in the number of Twitter shares for these publications, but there is some evidence available which possibly shows why the Mail is being out-tweeted by its rivals.

Research carried out by comScore in 2012 into The Guardian’s reader profile found that, when compared to the British average, its online audience tends to be more likely to update or maintain a profile on a social networking site and twice as likely to tweet or retweet on Twitter.

Unfortunately I was unable to find similar statistics for the Mail, so it’s not possible to make a direct comparison. However, the Mail Online's editorial director Martin Clarke spoke last year of the importance of the 'dark social network'.

This refers to people sharing links by email and instant messaging, which is more important to the publication’s success than search engines or public social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Without wishing to undermine the fine work that gets done over at the Mail Online, it could be that while people love to read the salacious celebrity gossip they don’t wish to associate themselves with it in public. I've previously investigated whether there's anything to be learned from the Mail Online's content strategy, as while it may not be to everyone's taste it is certainly effective.

In general people share an article if they feel it will be useful to their followers or if they agree with the original writer’s viewpoint. 

The content housed within the Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’ is eye-catching and frivolously entertaining, but is it really all that shareable?

PeerIndex’s study looked at which content from media outlets was shared by UK Twitter users in the UK, including both tweets and retweets.

It tracked the data by counting the URLs (including blog URLs) used by these outlets, but only counted tweets from users that it recognised as being from the UK. Trade publishers such as Mashable were excluded.

David Moth

Published 24 February, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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