calendar and clock

The podcast is produced and ready to be published, but when should that occur? And does it matter when aiming to get the most downloads as possible? Luke Riley, a data analyst at Megaphone, dug into the data about the shows the company hosts and discovered the trends are clear: Timing is everything.

The biggest number of shows is published midweek, with Wednesday being the biggest day, followed by Tuesdays and Thursdays. And it’s in the wee hours that most shows are released. The data shows 2am is the most popular time for a show to go live followed by 5am and 11pm. “Weekdays are much more popular than weekends, and the overnight hours account for the six highest-volume release times. This dovetails with the conventional wisdom that many people download and listen to podcasts in the morning, before or on their way to work, school and errands,” Riley says in blog post.

The biggest question is whether publication day or time really matters, and for that Riley looked at Megaphone shows that receive between 1,000 and 100,000 downloads per episode since he says smaller and biggest shows are “immune” to the effects of when they publish.

“The best download timeslot is Tuesday at 5am, with episodes publishing at that time seeing a median download rate of 10,386 downloads per episode. But the most popular publishing timeslot is Wednesday at 2am, with a total of 809 episodes being published in the past year,” Riley says. “Episodes published in the early morning hours generally perform better, even 4am when we don’t have as many episodes being published.”

The hour with the most downloads per average episode is 5am on Tuesday, followed by 5am on Friday and 5am on Thursday. The numbers are based on Megaphone-hosted episodes published between April 2018 and March 2019 and are based on the East Coast time zone.

The data indicates podcasts that publish before the morning commute do increasingly better up until 5am, and then the performance drops off. “Our theory to explain this is that an episode gains a competitive edge by being at the top of the list in a user’s podcast app at the time they commute to work,” says Riley. “This is supported by the finding that episodes published in the afternoon do best when they post just before the afternoon commute in the 4pm hour.” He notes however that theory is based on the assumption that podcast apps tend to list the newest episodes higher in a listener’s feed, which isn’t always the case.

The analysis suggests the small hours in the middle of the week is the time best to publish, so when is the worst? Riley says based on Megaphone’s data there’s a “midnight drought” in downloads. “Shows that go live around midnight — 11pm to 1am — have significantly lower total downloads than the 2am to 6am group,” he says, explaining, “For listeners who scroll through their podcast apps when they wake up, these midnight shows would appear lower on lists of new episodes sorted by publishing time than a 5am show would.”

Overall, Riley says his number-crunching shows Thursday has the most total downloads per average episode, while Wednesday is the most popular publishing day. He notes however that big hit podcasts could assuredly publish at any day or time and still be a hit.

“Still, we have enough information to see patterns emerging,” he says. “There are many reasons for choosing a particular timeslot for your podcast, but if you’re able to publish on Tuesday at 5 AM, these data suggest that wouldn’t be a bad choice.”