In 2019, we ran the numbers on The New York Times' ($NYT) social media traction, and, at the time, things were looking flat at best for the news giant. After years of audience growth on Facebook, interest in The Times' was slowing down for the first time since at least 2017. In short, its growth rate on social media had slowed from 25% year over year to just 3.5%.

But things changed in May for The Old Gray Lady: after the paper ran a front-page story that simply listed the names of lives lost to the Coronavirus, its social media trendline turned up for the first time in years. 

After years of follower slowdown, May 2020 was the first time since at least 2018 that the newspaper reversed its traction trend on the social network. By the end of March 2020, follower pickup on Facebook had slowed to less than 2%. But by June 1, 2020, that had increased to more than 3%. It's a small change, for sure, but it does reverse a trend of seeming disinterest.

We can trace the shift in sentiment to the days following the famous cover story, which ran on Sunday, May 24. Overnight, the number of times Facebook users mentioned The New York Times jumped from 1.1 million to 1.6 million. By the time the cover had made its way across Facebook users' newsfeeds, it was mentioned more than 2 million times on May 28.

The attention for the paper may be short-lived, however. Just yesterday, the paper ran a head-scratching op-ed from Senator Tom Cotton calling for use of military force against American citizens protesting George Floyd's death. The backlash hasn't been pleasant for a paper, leading to calls for normally outspoken New York Times staff members to do everything from speaking out to walking out.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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