Publishing times don’t matter and here’s why

Creating popular content can often prove difficult, and the perfect formula for marketers contains many variables. These might include how many diagrams to include in a post, what to do with break-out quotes and the type of lead image to choose.

But one thing you should definitely ignore is the posting time – if you are to believe data gathered by one story-telling platform, that is. Evidence from Medium suggests that, on the surface, posts prove most popular when they are published between 6am and 3pm. Total time reading (TTR) per post is more than treble that of content published outside of these hours.

However, further analysis reveals that posts published in these hours tend to be longer, and so are far more likely to have higher TTR rates. So, the really interesting question: what happens to TTRs when you normalise for post length? The answer is that posts published in the middle of the day prove more popular.

So how does Medium come to the conclusion that publishing times don’t matter, even though the evidence suggests otherwise? Well, yet more analysis – this time of a qualitative and quantitative nature – suggests that it is the type of content and the followers a publisher enjoys that dictates TTRs, not the publishing time itself; it just so happens that long, quality content is usually published during the day, by publishers with more followers. This is reflected in Medium’s ultimate metric, the average TTR per follower, per drafting minute:


As you can see from the above, there seems to be little correlation between publishing time and TTR, though there are some obvious late-afternoon peaks.

You may or may not choose to accept Medium’s argument, which might bring to mind those ‘damned lies and statistics’, but its conclusion is at least acceptable. Quality content and the number of regular followers a publisher has are far more important than when that content is published.

Logically, this makes sense. If content is engaging and shareable, then it will be shared by your followers. The more followers you have, the more your content will be shared etc. And content promotion can be done more than once, among different audiences and, of course, at any time of the day.

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