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Podcaster Questions: Do I Need An Episode Release Schedule?

An planner, laying open on a desk. The planner has a month-to page view.

The cover image for this post is by Eric Rothermel

This blog post was written by Mark.


You’ve picked your podcast’s overall topic. You’ve thought about your audience, and can describe them in a few, short paragraphs. You’ve recorded a number of episodes, figured out how to host them, written up the show notes, and even had some show and episode artwork created.

But what about releasing the episodes? Should you release them in batches? Should you release them on a predictable schedule? Or should you just release them whenever they are ready?

Listeners

Listeners are fickle. It’s no more complex than that.

Think about whatever content you consume. Perhaps you watch a specific TV show, or read magazines and blog posts. You can always rely on new issues (of magazines) or episodes (of TV shows) being released using a specific schedule. Think about it: aside from the infrastructural nightmare it would cause, magazines are released weekly, monthly, or quarterly because the publishers want you to trust that they will release them in that way.

If they released a new issue of a magazine as soon as it was done, you might not be at the store to pick it up, which would mean that it would go unsold. Combine this with the fact that magazine retail spaces always want to put the newest issues at the front of shelving units

Jamie here: there are very few people who would go into a magazine retail space to buy back issues of a magazine

This metaphor doesn’t fit perfectly with podcasts, because they are consumed on an ad-hoc basis. But it get’s my point across.

As a podcast listener, if your favourite show doesn’t release a new episode on the day that you’re expecting one, you’ll be a little perplexed. And if they do it too many times, you might consider un-following the show.

Apple’s current guidlines say that listeners "follow" their favourite shows, because "subscribe" has the connotation of there being a cost involved.

Consumption

It’s true that podcasts are consumed ad-hoc; they’re unlike radio (something that they are often compared to), where if you miss the show there might not be a way to catch it again. In that case, podcasts are a little more like YouTube videos, in that they are consumed when the consumer finds them, and at a time which suits them.

With that being said, if a consumer doesn’t find new stuff when they go to check then they will be less likely to check again another time.

assuming that they didn’t "subscribe and click the bell, ding ding"

So scheduled episode drops might not seem to matter to you. But they will to your core fans; some listeners might alter their lives to fit in an episode - maybe whilst mowing the lawn, running errands, or commuting. Without your content being released on a regular schedule, they will stop listening. And once the core fans have left, the others will too.

On the other side of the argument: If you create the expectation that episodes will be released on a certain schedule, your listeners will come to expect that. But if you manage not to release on time, several times in a row, they may give up on your show. And without an audience you’ll start to lose sponsors (if selling sponsorship and making a little money is your aim), and you might start to lose the drive to create. Leading to you show podfading - when you stop releasing new episodes, and your podcast fades into the background.

Scheduling

The most important thing is to pick a schedule which works for you, then your show and your listeners. Most of your listeners outside of your core, fanatical audience, will listen at time which makes sense to them. As such, whatever schedule you pick must work for you and fit around your personal bandwidth.

But what does that mean?

Let’s say that you decide to release new episodes on a Wednesday afternoon, every two weeks. This means that the very latest you can be working on that week’s episode of the show is either the day before, or the morning of release.

Trust me, you don’t want to be working on a new episode all the way up to the wire. The later you end up working on a show, the more stressed out you will be, and the more likely it will be for your episode to slip it’s release date and time.

But if that release date and cadence doesn’t fit with your personal bandwidth, you’ll end up resenting the sheer amount of hours required to produce high quality content; you’ll then need to make a choice between the quality of your content and releasing on time. On top of that, you’ll start to look for reasons to stop producing the content, which could lead to long, unannounced gaps in your episode history. And that will turn off listeners.

The ‘Best’ Day To Release

The only ‘best’ day to release a show is whatever fits your schedule, and that you can fit into your own personal bandwidth.

That is, of course, unless your show is a time-based specific topic. Let’s imagine that you show is about the Olympics: you’ll probably want new episodes to be released during each olympic event, or as a wrap up of each day of the event - not six months later, when most people have forgotten about it.

Similarly, if your podcast is about a new TV show - maybe you’re doing episode recaps and reviews. You probably want to release your episodes as soon as possible, after the show has aired.

When Jamie was planning out his release schedule for The .NET Core Podcast, he thought long-term.

"

I wanted to be able to release on a Friday, every two weeks. This served the dual purpose of giving me 13 days to plan, produce, edit, and post-produce 90 minutes of content; whilst also giving people something interested to listen to on their commutes home from work.

But the great thing about releasing on a Friday, for me at least, is that listeners here in the UK have something to listen to during their lunch break; listeners in the US have something to listen to on their way to work; and listeners in the Far East have something to listen to on their way home from work. And we really do get listeners from those three parts of the world who download and listen as soon as an episode drops.

"

- Jamie

That worked for him and the content of his show, but it might not for you. My advice is to sit and really think about how often you want to release episodes. Then think about a release day: there really isn’t a “perfect” release day, other than one which fits your schedule. Once you have that, imagine how you would feel if you had left it until the night before the release date, and had an entire episode to produce, edit, and release.

Is that still the right day for you? Do you have any other activities which could get in the way?

Backlogs

One of the best ways to avoid this pressure is to have a backlog of content that you can schedule for release in the future.

I’m writing this blog post on July 26th, 2022 and can tell you that:

These are some of the shows that I work on for RJJ Software, and I can say that having a backlog helps the producers, hosts, and I (as their editor) greatly. It reduces stress all round, and it means that listeners can assume that they will get fresh content on the dates of release.

The only way to build up a backlog of episodes is to plan and produce them in bulk, and that requires forward planning. Even if you’re “just doing this for fun,” you still need to plan things out. Again, let’s ask Jamie about this:

"

So one Saturday in May 2018, I went to a local coffee shop with my Mac Air. I bought a coffee, got sat down with my laptop, and opened visual studio code. Several hours later I had an room temperature coffee which sat undrunk, and plans for the first 20 episodes. The plans where bullet points in a markdown file, but there was a plan.

I then took a couple of hours each night to see if I could flesh out some of the episodes, moving from bullet points to paragraphs. Soon, I had the first six monologue episodes written. I spent a little time playing around with the content and moving some words around, then got my Blue Yeti microphone…

"

Jamie didn’t record anything until he had 20 episodes planned out. And that was back before the show pivoted to become an interview show - the planned episodes were 20 monologues. Of those 20 episode plans, only six were ever released. But he still has the plans, and that means that he has 14 episodes that he can produce in almost no time, and schedule for future release.

Changing The Schedule

It’s important to let your listeners know about any change to your schedule with as much notice as you can. Perhaps consider releasing a short bonus episode letting them know, and laying out the revised schedule. And each episode leading up to the schedule change should likely have an announcement reminding the current listeners that the schedule will change.

Do this on your show rather than on social media, as social media posts can easily be missed.

It’s even more important if you’ve sold ad spaces to sponsors, too. They’ve likely paid for a specific release date and cadence, and might be using their ad spots on your show (along with others) as part of their advertising campaign for a new product. As such, not releasing an episode with their ad baked in, on the previously agreed date could (at best) mean a little reshuffling or them asking for a refund, or (at worst) them filing suit for breach of contract.

WE ARE NOT LAWYERS. DO YOU OWN DUE DILIGENCE WHEN CHANGING YOUR PODCAST SCHEDULE.

The important thing to note is that, with enough notice, your listeners will adapt to the new schedule.

You may even get the core, fanatic audience asking if they can have more content, on a more regular basis, and might even be willing to financially support it through things like BuyMeACoffee or Patreon.

In Closing

As with all forms of media, you need a predictable schedule for your episode releases. Even if you’re “just doing this for fun.”

Having a backlog of episodes will really help with this, as you can produce them ahead of time and schedule them for release in the future. This will give you even more runway to produce more content WHEN YOU WANT TO rather than WHEN YOU HAVE TO.

At the end of the day, your entire brand is represented by your podcast, as and when it is released. A sloppy release schedule will reflect a sloppy brand for your podcast.

Get in touch today to find out how our podcasting services can help you with producing high quality podcasts, on time and under budget.