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National Geographic Is a Surprising Social Success Story

The magazine was founded in 1888. It has learned some new tricks.

JuliusKielaitis /
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp, who is trying to overhaul the magazine publisher into a digital powerhouse, says he’s using National Geographic as a guide.

This may confuse people who have a vague memory of print magazines with yellow borders, but a new report from a magazine trade group will help you get up to speed.

Turns out that NatGeo, under the leadership of chairman John Fahey, has become an online success. Check out the Association of Magazine Media’s new ranking of magazines by social media likes and followers. And note that NatGeo — a magazine founded in 1888 — has more than lapped the competition:

MPA most social magazine

The MPA’s lists tracks followers and likes at Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. NatGeo wins every one of those except for one:

MPA most social by network

Presumably Fahey is sharing some of his social success tips with Ripp — he joined the Time Inc. board of directors when the company spun out of Time Warner earlier this year.

This article originally appeared on

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