A new wave of shows releasing episodes at a very specific time of the day has me questioning some long-held notions.
Time-shifted audio is what podcasting was built upon. We didn’t want to be stuck with the appointment-based mentality of radio, television, or other media that require the listener of the content and the producer of the content to be on the same schedule.
Because this is podcasting! People subscribe to the show and then our content automatically downloads, leaving it up to the listener to consume the content on their schedule. At least that’s the theory.
Since starting my consultancy, I have been recommending my clients select set day and time for their episodes to release. Unless they have a compelling reason not to, that time is usually midnight local time for the producer. Assuming a good portion of their listener base is on the same or adjacent time zones, putting a file out at midnight allows time for the file to propagate down to all of the devices all of the applications for all subscribers. When the audience wakes up in the morning, there is a fresh episode of the podcast waiting for their listeners to consume.
That has been the advice I’ve given for a very long time. But maybe that advice needs to change.
Several things have happened recently that are causing me to change my opinion. One is the proliferation of shows that are time-of-day dependent. The Daily, for example, comes out every weekday morning while you’re sleeping. That makes sense because the New York Times is a newspaper, and papers tend to come out in the wee hours of the morning.
But there are also some new shows releasing episodes timed for evening drive-time. Ride Home Media produces both a tech- and a politics-based show to get you caught up on all the niche news you missed while you were working. Episodes of both shows are out by 5:30 pm Eastern Time.
The third trend is the time it takes for a new podcast episode to be available to subscribers. That used to take some time, so making sure your episode was ready as soon as listener wakes up and looks to their phone for content was smart. But with the proliferation of new podcast listening apps and updates to existing ones, you’ve probably seen “new episode available” notifications from your listening app of choice throughout the day. What took hours before is now only taking single-digit minutes.
That’s powerful. Especially when you remember that just because someone is subscribed to your podcast, it doesn’t mean they’re actually listening to your episodes. Many of your subscribers rely on that little notification to remind them to check out the recent episode to see if it’s worth downloading.
Maybe time-of-day is much more important than I thought? To help you answer that question, I have three “tests” for your show.
- Is the source and/or content you’re producing time-dependent? I mentioned the Ride Home shows earlier. Those shows gather news that happened throughout the day, so those episodes need to go out at the end of the day. If the hosts waited until first thing the next morning, they’d be talking about yesterday’s news.
- When is the audience in the right mood to listen to your show? Take the great and very weird show Desert Oracle as an example. The only time I listen to it is when I’m taking a late-night drive. It’s just too weird for daytime use. Think about your listeners for a moment and think about when they might be in the mood to listen to your show.
- Can you take advantage of a buzz factor from those podcast app notifications? Few people are getting notifications at midnight, because the phone and the person are both asleep. Which is why many of us wake to something like 17 notices of new episodes every Monday. All of those are lost to the din. Zero buzz factor.
So we need to rethink our approach. By the way, email marketers know this. I think we need to start learning from them. Time-of-day and day-of-release are going to become more important to more podcasters in the future. So much for time-shifted media production.
This article is a human-readable text-version of the 164th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast about podcasting (a “PAP”, as they are known), but is focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen.
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.