February 18, 2007

Is Timing an Important Element for Blog Posts?

This week, an interesting thread emerged when a stats-crunching 15-year-old in India analyzed well known Microsoft blogger Raymond Chen's posts, finding an astounding 77% of his posts came in the 7 a.m. hour, which led to his joking, "Is Raymond a bot?" But is Raymond on to something, that the 7 a.m. hour is the most appropriate time to be posting for optimal readership?

Thought Clusters' Krishna Kumar similarly wonders: "The 7 am intrigues me. Is that the best time for making a blog post visible? I do my posting during the weekends and nights - which is not exactly a good time for US-based audience."

As I see it, there are two ways of approaching this. One is how your own reading patterns flow, and one being the time you have available.

For me, the vast majority of blogging takes place between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays, after getting home from the office, with about two posts a day thrown in on the weekends. By moving from RapidWeaver to Blogger this month, I have more flexibility to post from the office, but through the first few weeks, I haven't been doing that at all - likely the result of work tasks and my own sense of guilt getting in the way.

However, as Google Reader tracks what time I read feeds from other blogs, a pattern does emerge. The 7 a.m. hour is when I do the most reading. It's right after I wake up each morning. You can see in the chart below, covering the last 30 days of activity, that the number of feeds read between 1 and 5 a.m. is almost negligible, which accounts both for my requiring sleep, unlike a bot, and the fact that most bloggers aren't posting at this time, giving me less to read. By reading feeds at 6 and 7 a.m. before I get ready for the day, I'm set with the day's news. You can even see dips throughout the day, one at 8 a.m. when I'm either driving to work or just getting in, and a second, at 5 p.m., when I'm sitting in traffic on the way home.

30-day Summary of Feeds Read, by Hour

This tells me that 7 a.m. is a great time to read feeds, or if you post at 7, I'll read it almost immediately. If, like me, you choose to post in the late evenings, you're probably not getting the most traffic available. Many people do the majority of their Web surfing at the office, not at home, so my practice of being quiet during the workday is contrary to what visitors are looking for.

The real question is, can I act on this knowledge? Krishna suggests writing posts at other times of day and posting at 7 a.m., just like reporters write, and their stories emerge with the morning's paper. That could be one option, albeit one that conflicts with the immediacy, real-time feel of the blogosphere.