Data: Parse.ly; Table: Axios Visuals

When it comes to traffic referrals for media companies, certain topics and behaviors take off on some platforms but fall flat on others. Politics, for example, is the No. 1 show in town on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, while it gets smothered on visual-heavy platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

Why it matters: The majority of traffic referrals to online media companies isn't from direct sources, making it critical for publishers to understand which platforms are most likely to elevate specific topics.

"It's all about aligning with algorithms that you like," says Neil Vogel, CEO of DotDash, an IAC-backed media company that was created through the rebranding of version of About.com.

  • DotDash is home to several niche websites, like TripSavvy, The Spruce, Byrdie, MyDomain, Investopedia and others.
  • Vogel says that Google is a strong traffic distributor and publishing partner for some of DotDash's evergreen content on websites like TheSpruce, a home improvement site, and Investopedia. But Instagram is much better for others like Byrdie, a beauty brand, and MyDomain, a lifestyle brand.
  • Similarly, online publishers that focus on politics and hyper-partisan news tend to perform best on Facebook, according to analytics company Newswhip.

Yes, but: Just because a topic isn't well-aligned on a certain platform, doesn't mean it can't or won't perform well.

  • Overheard, for example, has millions of followers across multiple accounts on Instagram, but all of its content is words.
  • This means it could be beneficial for publishers to experiment with a variety of platforms.

Between the lines: The data suggests that the core function of each platform elevates certain topics because of the native format and the reasons users visit the platform.

  • On Instagram, the camera is the central format, allowing users to view and showcase desirable lifestyles.
  • On Snapchat, the platform similarly revolves around the camera, but because it doesn't showcase "likes," and involves 1-to-1 communication rather than 1-to-many, it doesn't incentivize users to play to an algorithm.
  • On Twitter, a string of text is the central format, allowing users to receive quick bursts of information in real time on evolving storylines.
  • On Google, a list of results is the central format, allowing users to sift through sources to find the specific information they seek.

Our thought bubble: Media companies are shifting from relying solely on Google and Facebook for news distribution to relying on other, more niche channels, including private networks.

  • This shift incentivizes media companies to produce higher-quality content to be effective regardless of the platform, rather than create content to game algorithms.
Data: Axios research: Chart: Axios Visuals

Go deeper

A nation of news consumption hypocrites

The news and information that U.S. adults actually read doesn't always match up with the topics they claim they want covered more, according to data from traffic analytics company Parse.ly and an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

The big picture: Entertainment and emotionally charged topics over-index on how much they are read vs. readers' stated coverage preferences. More academic, less personality-driven issues end up getting read less.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 12,859,834 — Total deaths: 567,123 — Total recoveries — 7,062,085Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 3,297,501— Total deaths: 135,155 — Total recoveries: 1,006,326 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. States: Florida smashes single-day record for new coronavirus cases with over 15,000 — NYC reports zero coronavirus deaths for first time since pandemic hit.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA chief projects "apex" of South's coronavirus curve in 2-3 weeks — Coronavirus testing czar: Lockdowns in hotspots "should be on the table"
  5. Education: Betsy DeVos says schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds — Pelosi accuses Trump of "messing with the health of our children."

Scoop: How the White House is trying to trap leakers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has told several White House staffers he's fed specific nuggets of information to suspected leakers to see if they pass them on to reporters — a trap that would confirm his suspicions. "Meadows told me he was doing that," said one former White House official. "I don't know if it ever worked."

Why it matters: This hunt for leakers has put some White House staffers on edge, with multiple officials telling Axios that Meadows has been unusually vocal about his tactics. So far, he's caught only one person, for a minor leak.