If you believe the internet (and let's face it, who's got time for that these days) then you'll read a million blog posts and pieces of advice from podcast experts who will waste absolutely no time in shoving one message down your throat: Thou Shalt Publish Every Week on a Weekly Schedule. And if you don't, well, nobody's going to listen to it, and you shouldn't even bother podcasting. Probably spend that time in a room, staring at the corner, and THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE, YOU BRING SHAME TO YOUR FAMILY.
But for us mere mortals, releasing a podcast episode every week is bloody hard work. And expensive. Is it actually necessary, though? Are all those online podcasters right? Well, let's pick this apart:
Why do people say you should publish a podcast episode once a week?
It seems like an accepted fact that publishing once a week will help you build your podcast's audience. Those folks who write that sort of advice contend that you will develop expectations in your listener's mind that "ohh, it's a Wednesday, therefore it's time for another episode of My Really Awesome Podcast!". Your listener will then rush to download that episode, because Wednesday's morning coffee/commute/dump isn't complete without an episode of My Really Awesome Podcast, is it?!
But here's the deal, Ally McBeal: I don't actually think many folks question that logic. Is that actually true? Or are we just parroting the same piece of advice from 2004? I think there's a couple of reasons why that logic smells fishy:
Many of the folks saying you need to release weekly are social media folks who've crossed into podcasting: where one almighty algorithm rules and frequency is everything in making sure that your posts actually reach your audience's eyeballs. Whilst that is not entirely untrue of podcasting, your show doesn't necessarily rely on one convincing the algorithm on one particular feed to bring listeners in.
Many of the folks saying you need to release weekly are radio folks who've crossed into podcasting (guilty!) who were indoctrinated into "your show has a scheduled slot at (X) o'clock on a Thursday, so you better make sure that your audience makes your show part of their life in that timeslot." Yes, radio is all about building that community and working your show into people's schedules... but you couldn't catch up on a radio show in the old days; you can catch up on a podcast whenever you want.
Many of the folks that say you need to release weekly sell podcast production packages... and lemme tell you, from a bloke that actually does sell podcast production packages, getting someone to buy a six-episode package that they use up every six weeks by publishing a weekly episode does wonders for the bank balance!
I have not been able to find a single piece of research, not even one, that says your podcast will be better off if you release on a consistent day every week. Sure, there's people that have gone through the top podcasts on Apple Podcasts, and lo and behold something like 17 of the 20 publish on a particular day of the week, every week. But perhaps that's because they've assumed (like the rest of us) that you don't get audience engagement without sticking to that rigid schedule?
And probably the most important one: of all the podcasts you listen to, can you name the day of the week they're published?
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I can only remember one: Midweek Motorsport, and that's because it's literally in the name! It's a live internet radio show and it comes out on a Wednesday at 8pm UK time... which is a Thursday morning for me anyway SO IT DOESN'T EVEN WORK!
Much more likely is that I'm about to head to work, or drive for an hour, or clean the bathroom, and I scroll through my feed and pick out a podcast... and then listen to whatever episode was released latest. I'm certainly not sitting there waiting for a particular day for a new show to get released unless it's a MASSiVE blockbuster (you better believe I was on schedule when Netflix dropped the next ep of Queer Eye...) and I need to be up for water cooler chat. If you're releasing massive blockbusters then you're probably not reading this, and you probably have more resource available to be able to hit a weekly deadline. But for us mere mortals, I think we can be a bit more nuanced in when we decide to release our episodes:
Why you shouldn't release a weekly podcast episode:
Because you can! Podcasting is less reliant (not completely, but less) reliant on one single algorithm to get your show in front of potential listener's eyeballs. Why not take advantage of that and release when it suits you?
You can't commit to a weekly episode. We get it: life gets in the way. Sure your audience growth might not be as fast as some other podcasts', but that assumes that you're podcasting for audience share anyway?
Maybe your podcast just doesn't make sense with a regular schedule? Say I, Captain F1 Nerd, have a Formula 1 podcast. F1 races don't run every weekend, they have a set calendar throughout the year. I could release an episode every week... or maybe I could do a preview episode on the Thursday before a race and a review episode on the Monday after? Wouldn't that make more sense? And as an added bonus it would be around the time that F1 fans would be expecting (or even Googling...) a new episode, too!
Is your podcast a passion project? Maybe you've got some sort of weird wacky arthouse soundscape podcast: best release those episodes when they're ready, rather than putting yourself under time pressure to get them done.
Is your podcast binge-able? If it's good enough for Netflix, it's good enough for you. If you've got your whole series in the can, why make your audience wait for next week and potentially move onto something else? Release them all at once and enjoy making your audience red-eyed and sleep deprived because they had to listen to that next episode!
Why you should release a weekly podcast episode:
I'm going to go back on myself a little bit here and say that while I don't think this should be taken as gospel, there are a number of compelling reasons why you would release every (Thurs? Tues? etc)day.
You're in your audience's ears more often. If you're trying to build a brand, you're literally giving yourself more time to do it. That is, assuming your audience wants to, or has the time to listen to that much of your content?! The laws of diminishing returns apply here too.
Some people will make your show part of their routine. However, like I said, I do think it will be fewer folks than people would have you believe.
It makes it a whole lot easier to schedule your other podcast promotion stuff. Because podcasts can be a little bit of that 'billboard in the desert' (great content, but placed where no-one can see it) sometimes, promotion outside of podcast apps is really important. Because the social media we use to promote our podcasts does reward consistency, it makes sense that you might want to put your podcast in lock-step with the rest of your comms.
You can make it an event. Generate buzz or water-cooler chat by releasing on a particular day.
When to release your podcast episode instead:
I think, rather than concentrating on releasing a weekly episode, release a timely podcast episode!
'Timely', or at least the definition I'm running with here, means episodes released at the right time, whatever that is for you or your audience, to achieve your goals. So instead:
Regular doesn't necessarily mean weekly. A schedule helps keep you on track and provides some motivation, but why does it have to be weekly? If you can't release a weekly episode why not start with monthly and go from there? My podcast, Check In & Check Out is released bi-weekly on a Monday. Why? Because they take a little while to produce, it's just me doing it, and my goal is to show prospective customers what Jet Streamer can do, not necessarily to grow immediately and have a gazillion listens (though it would be nice... so click that link!). And at the same time, there's plenty of great daily podcasts, too! Apple Podcasts uses the 'frequency' field (you filled in when you signed your show up with them) to give an estimated next episode date... so best make sure you're honest with yourself and your listeners about what you can keep up.
Be open in your communication. If you can't make an episode when one is scheduled, make sure you get on the front foot and tell your listeners! Best not to have them wondering where you are if they haven't heard from you in a while. If you're missing a day, or take a holiday, let everyone know!
Play with your schedule if you want! Special event happening in your niche? Release a special episode for it on the same day! Release a bonus episode! Enjoy the creative anarchy that our beautiful self-publishing medium can bring!