I asked a lot of questions when I first started podcasting, such as, “What kind of mic should I use?”, “Where can I find good podsafe intro music?”, and “What’s the best date and time to publish my show?”
I told myself that I was asking these questions (and countless more) because I wanted to be “strategic”—but really, I wanted to maximize my download numbers. Because in my mind, the higher the download numbers, the most successful the show—and the stronger the reassurance that all of this time and effort spent podcasting is worth it.
Timing is important in the marketing world, where it’s crucial to send emails, tweets, and SMS campaigns at exactly the right moment to maximize open rate. Surely, I thought, the same must be true for podcasting.
I was wrong.
My Own Data
For the past two years, I’ve used my own podcast as a guinea pig in a variety of content marketing experiments, to mixed results and marginal success. And I’ve collected some interesting data along the way, which takes into account about a quarter of a million total downloads. (Since Write Now is a niche indie show for creative writers, it will never see the sheer numbers of a mass-appeal or networked show.)
I decided to release episodes on Mondays when I was first starting out because a.) I couldn’t find definitive proof that one day was better than any other, and b.) it worked for my schedule.
As I was putting together my initial thoughts for this article, I expected that downloads would be highest on Mondays since my subscribers’ podcatchers would automatically download new episodes upon their release.
However, I did not expect that downloads would be relatively consistent throughout the week, as you can see in this graph:
There was a less than 1% difference between Monday (which claimed 17.5% of all downloads) and Tuesday (16.6%), and while downloads did taper off near the weekend, they did not dwindle as much as I had predicted they would (ending up at 9.7% of all downloads for Sunday).
Please note that since I don’t have a second data set for a podcast released on another day of the week (e.g., Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday), we cannot assume that Monday is the best day to release, or that Sunday is necessarily the worst. If I were to release weekly episodes on Thursdays, that day of the week might show the highest number of downloads—or it might not. Again, we cannot determine that from this data.
What About Time?
Once again, unlike the email marketing blasts that hit one target market at a strategic date and time, podcasting is able to enjoy a more expansive view (in many senses of the word).
Before I started podcasting, I had a very narrow view of my own place in time. I debated whether to release my episode at 6:15 a.m. or 6:30 a.m., as if that would make the difference between podcast success and podcast failure.
Embarrassingly, I’d overlooked the fact that podcasting is a global medium, and that 6:15 a.m. in my time zone (CST) is 4:15 a.m. in California (PST), where the majority of my listeners are based.
6:15 a.m. CST is also 7:15 a.m. in Ontario, Canada, 12:15 p.m. in Manchester, UK, 8:15 p.m. in Canberra, Australia, and 7:15 p.m. in Beijing, China. You get the picture. Unless your show is both time-sensitive and hyper-local (e.g., a live podcast that covers breaking news in your neighborhood or relies on live call-ins), the time of episode release won’t make or break your show.
So What Can You Tell Us?
Here’s what I can tell you. Correlation and causation aside, the fact that my download numbers showed less than a 1% difference among multiple days in the above chart indicates that there is not enough variance to determine a “best” day for podcast release.
But that in itself is not unimportant.
One of the reason podcasting is so powerful is because of its evergreen—that is to say, perennially fresh or enduring—qualities.
For instance, my very first podcast episode (released back in January 2015) has gone very few days without at least one download:
While people are generally not willing to scroll back in time to read two-year-old blog posts, they are willing to listen to two-year-old podcast episodes on the same topic.
Additionally, these back-catalog or “legacy” downloads likely don’t have anything to do with the original day of the week on which the episode was published.
Rather, they have everything to do with what the listener wants and when the listener wants it. It’s simultaneously the upside and the downside of an on-demand medium like podcasting—the listener is in full control.
So if a listener in California wants to wake up at 4:15 a.m. to download my newest episode right when it comes out, that’s their prerogative. But they can also download it before their morning commute at 7:00 a.m. with absolutely no loss of content or value.
It’s important to remember that not all of your listeners are subscribers to your show—in fact, the percentage of subscribers among your total listeners might be very low. And so while I don’t think you should obsess over episode release dates and times, I do think you should consider how and when you amplify your show.
While reviewing my data for this article, I saw a number of spikes in my downloads—days where downloads were significantly higher than average. The two highest (November 29, 2016, and March 28, 2017), were both on Tuesdays, so I wondered if there might be a pattern there.
However, when I looked at the data for the top 100 highest download days over the full run of my show, my top spike day was Wednesday:
I was surprised to notice my publication day (Monday) in the middle of the pack, with Wednesday (followed by Tuesday) in the lead.
I release a weekly newsletter about my podcast and, following a hunch, I reviewed my Mailchimp send data. My email newsletter is largely sent out on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and it always contains a link to my latest podcast episode on my website, iTunes, and other sources.
In addition to email, another great tool for amplifying or sharing your content is social media. The date and time at which you share your content on social media—the time at which listeners who don’t subscribe to your show may be made aware that it exists—is vastly more important than the date and time at which you release your episode.
What Really Matters
It’s easy as a podcaster to obsess over all of the little things that can help you increase your downloads. But in many cases, it’s not worth it—or at least it’s less worth it than other important factors.
Focus on releasing episodes consistently, which means setting expectations for your listeners and sticking to your schedule. Since the date and time of episode release does not have a significant effect on downloads, set a date and time that works most conveniently for you.
Focus on amplifying your content via email, social media, and word of mouth.
And most importantly, focus on producing great content that is evergreen—content that will build up a great catalogue and bolster your total downloads over the long run while helping establish you as a leader in your field.
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