What is the exact optimal time to publish?
By giving yourself a weekly publication deadline, you’re less likely to fall off that bandwagon.
Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my media newsletter. You can subscribe by clicking on this handy little button:
Hey folks! Today I’m answering questions from readers. If you have a question you want me to answer in a future newsletter, leave it in this thread.
What is the exact optimal time to publish?
The first question comes from Quinn Rhodes:
If posting every week is a given, how important is it to post on the same day and the same time every week? And if that is important, how do you work out which day and which time to publish?
I’ve seen various forms of this question hundreds of times over the past decade. I think there’s this prevalent view that if you dive deep enough into analytics data, you’d come away with the exact optimal time to publish — something like 2:32 p.m. ET on a Wednesday — that will drastically increase your chances of going viral.
In reality, it doesn’t really matter that much. During any given hour, there are millions of tweets, photos, videos, podcasts, articles, and newsletters published, and you’re going to be competing with them no matter when you post. There’s no magic golden hour for content distribution.
(I should pause for a second and acknowledge there are some exceptions to this. If you’re operating a morning news podcast that’s meant to be consumed during the daily commute, then posting time obviously matters.)
Now, is it important to publish consistently at the same time every week? Sort of, but not for the reasons you may think.
There’s this perception that your audience is waiting with bated breath for your content to hit their inbox at a designated time, and they’ll be disappointed if it’s late. But unless you’re conducting some kind of live performance, this usually isn’t the case. I publish my main newsletter every week at roughly the same day and time, and yet if I quizzed you on that day and time, most of you would fail.
Instead, it’s more important from a content production standpoint. If you know you need to publish a YouTube video every Tuesday afternoon, then you have to reverse engineer all the production steps required in order to make that happen. As I wrote about in a previous newsletter, a lack of production schedule is the most common reason that creators fall off the bandwagon and stop publishing. By giving yourself a weekly publication deadline, you’re less likely to fall off that bandwagon.
Sponsors also tend to like to know when their ads will run. Prior to launching sponsorships in this newsletter in March 2022, I published on a haphazard schedule that varied wildly from week to week. But once sponsors came on board, I started sticking to a Wednesday afternoon publishing schedule, mainly so I could establish a workflow for when the sponsors delivered their ad copy.
But there were all sorts of benefits to this more rigid publishing schedule. It forced me to think more about the product and what I could realistically deliver on a weekly basis. Prior to March 2022, I was producing longform case studies that took forever to write but weren’t generating much traffic. Once I switched to the Wednesday publishing schedule, I did away with the case studies completely, and I soon saw a strong uptick in audience growth. The publishing schedule, in other words, allowed me to throw away the stuff that wasn’t working and double down on the stuff that did work.
Can you answer a quick question?
I’m curious about how many international readers I have.
"On-site video revenue surpassed the amount Insider was making through YouTube partner sales, a shift that began at the beginning of this year." [Digiday]
This is a brilliant piece of subscription marketing. [Nieman Lab]
Spotify is building out its own YouTube-like programmatic ad system that podcasters can opt into. It's splitting revenue with those podcasters 50/50. [Bloomberg]
Podcasts can be a great driver of subscriptions, as they help you forge a stronger connection to your audience. [Adweek]
We underestimate the size of the self-published book market because the trade association that publishes annual book sales stats doesn't include self published titles in its estimates. [Twitter]
Is there a potential downside to Substack’s Recommendations tool?
The next question comes from Mark Dykeman
Hi Simon. Do you think there's any downside to Substack's strategy to use Recommendations and internal network effects to help boost audiences for Substack publishers? On one hand I think it's great for building free subscriber numbers. On the other hand, I don't think it helps paid subscription growth unless Substack also significantly grows its total number of readers. If the total pool of paid Substack subscribers does not grow significantly then the only way for new Substack publishers to get more paid subscribers is if they poach them from other publishers considering it's hard (financially) for most people to support more than a small number of paid subscriptions per year. Or am I being too pessimistic?
A few weeks ago I wrote about how Substack found its unfair advantage when it launched its Recommendations tool. By introducing network effect into its platform, it’s been able to differentiate itself from competitors and provide further justification for its 10% cut of all subscription revenue.
But is there a potential downside to this tool? I think in the longterm it’s possible that it could lead to newsletter inflation, which would then drive down engagement for Substack newsletters.
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