Last week, I was talking to a Pacific Content client about their podcast’s release cadence. “How often should we release new episodes?” they asked. “Which day of the week? What time of day?”
A podcast’s publishing schedule might seem like a small thing, but it’s worth considering deeply. Podcast listening is often built on habit and routine, so the smartest podcasters design their shows to fit into listeners’ lives in natural, convenient, and predictable ways.
There’s no one-size-fits-all podcast release cadence. But there is a best practice that applies to almost every podcaster out there: consistency over time. That means showing up for your listeners, episode after episode, season after season, year after year.
I wanted to understand how the world’s most popular podcasts handle release cadence. So I pulled a list of the 200 all-time most popular shows from Apple Podcasts and visualized episode releases on a timeline.
Here are the 10 most recent episodes of NPR’s Peabody Award–winning Fresh Air, plotted on a timeline:
At first blush, Fresh Air’s release cadence might look sporadic. But if we zoom out and look at Fresh Air’s 50 most recent episodes, a pattern emerges: new episodes every weekday, plus a Saturday “Best Of” episode:
Every week. Like clockwork.
This same consistency is evident across other public media podcasts. For example, here are the recent releases from TED Radio Hour and Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
“But Dan,” you might say, “Fresh Air, TED Radio Hour, and Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! are all radio shows. They’re beholden to a regular on-air timeslot. Podcasts represent freedom from the tyranny of the broadcast schedule!”
You’re right. Still, many podcast-first shows display equally rigorous consistency over time. Let’s keep going…
Stuff You Should Know debuted as a podcast in 2008, and regularly appears near the top of Apple’s charts. Its release cadence is remarkably consistent. Here are the 50 most recently released episodes:
Do you notice a pattern week to week?
We see this same level of consistency on other iHeartRadio podcasts like Stuff You Missed in History Class and BrainStuff:
Of course, iHeartRadio doesn’t have a monopoly on consistency.
Here are the release cadences of a few more always-on podcast-first shows, including Oprah’s Super Soul, Savage Lovecast, WTF with Marc Maron, Pod Save America, Office Ladies, Comedy Bang Bang! and Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.
All these shows release new episodes with stunning regularity. Most outliers in these timelines represent additional “bonus” episodes.
Limited-run series and season-based shows
Not every podcast is “always on.” Some are limited-run series. Other shows organize episodes into distinct seasons with breaks between them.
Consistency over time applies here, too. Take, for instance, Dolly Parton’s America from WYNC, which had a fairly consistent release schedule:
Or The Dropout from ABC News. We can clearly see the 7 original episodes, followed much later by a triple episode drop for another ABC News show, Tulsa’s Buried Truth:
Will Ferrell’s The Ron Burgundy Podcast is organized into seasons, and within each, there’s a consistent weekly schedule:
Despite long breaks in between seasons, Someone Knows Something from CBC Podcasts is super-consistent when a new season is in market. The outliers on the timeline are special “bonus” episodes and episode drops from other shows:
How consistent is your podcast?
Every show is different, and every audience is different. Some podcasts are evergreen, while others are topical and timely. Some shows are always-on, while others take breaks between seasons. Some audiences expect a high volume of new episodes, while others savour every episode of a less frequently released series.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all release cadence for all podcasts. Rather, I recommend that podcasters build a schedule that:
- Sets and maintains listener expectations
- Is manageable and sustainable
- Allows for sufficient time to promote each episode effectively
- Builds and strengthens relationships with listeners over time, drip by drip
How often do you release new podcast episodes?
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