It's funny, two years ago my most asked question was "what is a podcast?" then this time last year it began to change to "how long should my podcast be?" (altogether now - As long as it is interesting!) and now over the last couple of months I find that my most asked question is how often should I publish my podcast.
And that's what I'm going to look at today.
Of course the answer depends on a few variables...
Content might be Queen (or King) but there's another C word you have to bow down to as well.
Being consistent with your podcast is absolutely essential if you want to become part of people's lives. I know that sounds dramatics but it's true. We all tend to have routines and fix things to those routines. For example - when I go for my runs I listen to a podcast - usually on the day it comes out and I associate that day's run with that podcast. So on a Wednesday I run whilst listening to Seth Godin's Akimbo podcast. You want people to fix things to your podcast. I had a listener who would listen to podcasts while doing their ironing. It's that sort of thing.
You can only do that if you show up every time you say you will. Start missing episodes here and there without warning or without explanation and you will lose that association you've worked hard create. And frustratingly it's really hard to win people back when that association is lost.
This means when picking a publishing schedule you have to make sure it is one you can stick to.
How much time you have
Let's figure out this schedule by looking at just how much time you have. And you have got to be honest with yourself on this or you will struggle with consistency and burnout or both.
If you have a relatively simple podcast - ie one voice, a simple intro and outro, no music stabs, sound effects and so on, then producing content should be straightforward.
If you are outsourcing much of your podcast production process (as I talked about last week) again with a bit of planning it should be straightforward.
But if you've got guests or multiple co-hosts then it might end up taking more of your time.
There are of course ways to mitigate this, for example batching your content, recording multiple episodes in one go and outsourcing as much as possible.
But if you know you've only got 2 hours a week to produce a podcast and you want that podcast to be all singing and all dancing then you need to decide if you are going to compromise quality or quantity.
Here's a clue - sacrifice quantity.
I would much rather listen to one solid gold episode of your podcast a month than listen to one ropey podcast a week from you. Quality wins.
So if you know your time constraints mean you can only do one podcast a fortnight or one podcast a month do that. But do it well and stick to it.
What is your topic?
Another thing to consider when deciding on your publishing frequency is what are you talking about?
Is there enough for you to talk about and not be boring, repetitive and keep what you're doing fresh at the rate you want to publish?
I know people who do daily podcasts and whilst these tend to be bitesize and very much focussed on current affairs I do marvel at their ability to a turn them around and get the content out AND to keep what they are talking about so fresh.
It reminds me of the radio treadmill of churning out material and it's not for me anymore. But you might want to consider doing a daily top tip. You could connect it with your Instagram Reels or TikTok strategy. If you did want to do this I would suggest at least considering batching your episodes so you have a buffer when you get "one of those days" because let's be honest they happen.
If you have plenty to talk about or you have a subject that is evolving all the time with new developments then you might want to go for a weekly or fortnightly podcast over a monthly one
Who is your audience?
Looking at your audience and what they are up to is really beneficial when deciding how often you want to publish.
Do they have time to keep up with your publishing schedule? Here's a confession, I stopped really watching and caring about Eastenders when they cancelled the Sunday omnibus all those years ago. I know I have access to the iPlayer where I can watch all the episodes I miss during the week, but I really liked just flopping on the sofa and having the omnibus ready for me. I also think there's an element of reminiscing of childhood Sunday afternoons when I should have been doing homework but instead watched Eastenders after a big Sunday lunch, but the fact is I don't have time during the week to watch soaps. I used to do things most evenings - run club, hockey and rugby so having the Sunday catch up was perfect.
I've since replaced it with The Archers Omnibus instead... again because I don't have the memory to remember to listen to the Archers every day.
I know that says a lot about me, but it's something you should consider.
What is your audience doing? Will they have space to listen to a daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly podcast? If they miss one will they have to catch up? Will they have time?
As much as creating a podcast has to fit in with your life, listening to a podcast has to fit in with your listeners lives too.
We are creatures of habit. Which is why lockdown has been a struggle, let's be honest - even the rubbish routines have been a bit missed - right?
And for all sorts of reasons we attach our habits to days of the week. Stick with me - in our house Friday night is always Steak night, Saturday is the big shop and house work day, Sunday is coffee walk day (a lockdown thing where my husband and I walk in to town, get a takeaway coffee from our favourite coffee shop and then walk around the park. Same time, same coffee, same route). I even break down my week days to different parts of my business - Mondays are big ideas, Tuesday and Wednesday 100 % client focussed, Thursday is my content and Fridays are catch ups - coffee chats and catching up with client work that I need to deal with.
The good news is you can absolutely use the habit thing for good when it comes to your podcast.
You need to pick a day of the week to release your podcast and stick to it. Make that day totally associated with your podcast.
It honestly doesn't matter which day you choose as long as you choose one and stick to it.
And whilst I talk about days of the week it doesn't matter if your podcast is released weekly to do this.
I think we fall in to the trap of weekly podcasts because we are so used to TV shows being weekly (or those of us of a certain age are, obviously now we can binge content. I sort of miss that weekly wait. But I'll regret saying that when Line Of Duty returns and all I want to do is watch everything in one go!)
But don't be afraid of fortnightly or monthly podcasts. As a child I was a subscriber to Smash Hits magazine which came out fortnightly and so did Just 17 when I was a bit older. I knew when it came out and would never miss it. I would eagerly run to the corner shop to get my copy and some penny sweets while I was there. That was my fortnightly routine on a Thursday (I think. I actually lost a lot of time on a Smash Hits fan site in my quest to find out the publication day and to be honest 30 years later it's not essential to this point I'm making).
Most of the magazines I read as an adult (ok they're running magazines) come out monthly and I don't sit there wishing they were weekly.
You need to figure out where you are going to fit in your listeners habits. It's about understanding your listener and not letting them down when you have become part of their routine and habits.
Series (or seasons if you must)
One way to get around the anxiety of deciding how often to publish your podcast is to record in series.
A limited run of say 10 (doesn't have to be 10 - you decide) episodes on a theme or track that you can prepare in advance and either release in one go for a boxset style binge fest or get enough done ahead of launch to give you a buffer for your release schedule.
The other benefits of a series is it gives you a chance to have a break from your podcast, it gives your listeners a chance to have a break (and catch up if they missed episodes) and on top of that it creates that desire in between series to hear the next series. Have I mentioned how excited I am for Line Of Duty series 6? I've watched and rewatched series 1-5 in preparation. I'm even re-watching series 2. Again. Because it's on Saturday nights now.
Now I know you're thinking - hang on a moment Charlotte you just told me I need to be part of my listener's habits and life. I can't break that habit and keep coming and going.
And yes I did say that, but I've also been saying throughout this that what you also need to do is keep to your word.
So you tell your listener what you are doing. Warn them it's a series. Warn them when it's coming to the penultimate and last episodes.
Also you get to have multiple podcast launches - which are fun.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you tell your audience. Keep your messaging clear and stick to it. I would go with quality over quantity, and if you're just starting out I really recommend you think about doing it as a series to start with.
And remember nothing is permanent. If you start monthly and get to weekly that's fine or vice versa. If you start as a series and you go to ongoing or again vice versa it's fine. Just tell your audience - once they trust you the last thing you should do is break that trust.