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One of my Stack Exchange communities started a blog recently. The content is of a good quality and from a variety of authors. Some posts are one-shots and some are parts of series. There is a good variety of content.

What we're trying to figure out is pacing.

In our first month, fueled by interest in something new, we had 20 posts. In the second month that fell to 9 and there was one point when there was a week between posts, so we began maintaining a buffer. (We now usually have 2-3 posts ready to go at any given point.) We also fell back to posting twice a week even if we had more posts available than that.

Recently we've seen more activity again and have just bumped it up slightly to posting once every three days. Even so, people sometimes have to wait a week or more to see their submissions "in print" (so to speak), and I worry about the effect of that on new authors in a new blog. The stability we get with the buffer and the conservative schedule comes at a possible cost of timely gratification for authors.

To mitigate that, our most-frequent posters have a policy of deferring to less-frequent contributors. So the regulars have their posts wait in the buffer longer, but we can get a new author's contribution out more promptly. That feels like the right approach to build engagement, but we don't want the regulars to get frustrated either.

Currently there are 9 people who have posted: 2 are prolific (9 posts each), 3 have posted 3-5 times each, and 4 have posted once each so far. A few more people have expressed interest but haven't completed their first posts yet. There are four "series" going right now, though some other posts could end up having sequels too.

Because this is a new blog we don't have long-term data about trends. We use a chat room to organize the buffer and the "pre-buffer" (people tell us what they're working on even if it's not ready yet). Sometimes people produce posts in a day or two from telling us, and sometimes they take much longer. This is a hobby for all of us, so we understand that sometimes things come up.

We don't have a lot of data about readers. Our direct followers have been steadily increasing and I know there are people following via RSS (no way to measure that). Most recommendations (think "favorites" or "likes") come from within our SE community, as you would expect at this stage of development, but we have followers I do not recognize. We get almost no comments.

Given all that, how should we decide how to pace our posts? is it better to be consistent or to respond to ebbs and flows in submissions, publishing more when we've got it and less when we don't?

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The best way is to be consistent and have some surprises at the same time.

You should select a day on which something is posted. Let it be Monday every week or Wednesday every three weeks, it should be clear that you post on some particular days. The consistency let people stick to your blog as they know that they will find something next week. And they also know that what is going to be there next week can amuse or entertain them. That is what you want to achieve. Be consistent enough so you have a post every, for example, Monday.

The problem with releasing posts every three or two days is that the number of days of a week is uneven. If you say that you release posts every two days, there is no day which is exactly associated with a post. After two weeks, you have released posts on every day and basically every day is associated with a post, even if that wasn't your intention. They best way is to define days so your users know on which day they can rely.

So the key element is to maintain consistency. If you have x posts available, you should post them on y day(s) so that you always have z posts as backup which can be posted at any time (no time sensitive content).

This is a key element if you just post content which is not linked to other content created by you, meaning single story posts. A single story for a single post. However, you say that you have series going on, meaning multiple stories posts. To pace correctly, you should first pinpoint a day on which the series take place until they end. For example: every monday there's the article about the latest strategies in a video game.

So if you have four series going on and you don't know if they contributors can do it within a week, select a day every two weeks. In one week, you show two series, in the following week, the other two. Now you still have left the single story posts and time sensitive posts (posts which main point is a recent event).

Let's talk about time sensitive posts first. If someone is writing about a event which occurs right now, you should release it right now, too! It's very unattractive to be late in such affairs, other blogs will have reported about it already twice or three times if you delay time sensitive content. This means that such content always goes up in your priority list. Going back to the first sentence I said that you should be consistent and have surprises at the same time.

This basically means if someone contributes a quite interesting and time sensitive post, you should publish it right away. Yes, it's not regular, and this should be pointed out but you can't allow to wait as it will become very uninteresting.

Now to the single posts. A good way is to choose one day which will essentially be your day for such posts. On fridays, there will always be single posts discovering specific fields, so be it. People who want to contribute then too know that their post will be published on a Friday. If you tell them that there are other people in line that's something they have to accept or you introduce a second day.

Going into more detail regarding your regular and once-in-a-lifetime contributors: you can avoid it (easily). Assign the regular contributors to series, these will appear any way, not minding the amount of other posts. Assign new contributors to single posts. You don't know them neither their writing style, so they have to line up with the several others and after posting a few things, you can consider to offer them a series or a day which is reserved for them.

So, as an example:

  • Your series are on Monday and on Friday (start and end of the work week), one week series A and B, the other week C and D
  • Wednesday (something new in the middle of the week) is the day on which people can have their time to shine (posts of new users)
  • Sundays you publish time sensitive and very importants blog entries (end of the week altogether, most people have free on weekends and therefore spend a little bit more time on the internet)
  • You keep two or three posts in reserve at any time (around one week, preferably two weeks reserve)

Regarding the amount of comments you receive: don't get discouraged by it. Reading and commenting are two entirely different things. It's actual work to comment: typing in your email, username and the content can cost around five minutes. An effort most won't do because, what can they tell you besides "Well done"? The people who are keen to criticize you will absolutely post comments but for now, don't be discouraged by it. There will be comments but it will take some time.

I just calculated the view to comment ratio of some YouTube videos and some of my blog entries. On YouTube, it's around 0.6% and the blog posts have astonishing 0.9%. Just bear in mind that controversial blog entries are more likely to generate traffic and comments. The modern internet society doesn't like to share opinions so be prepared for some negative comments if you have controversial topics.

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    Thanks. Could you add what you base your "fixed day of week" recommendation on? I can see the value of "every MWF" and I can also see the value of "never go more than N days without something" (which means the days vary). I'm not saying one is better than the other; I don't know. How have you learned that the former is the better approach? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Nov 11 '15 at 21:36
  • @MonicaCellio I will add an example and a little story to it to clarify why I think it's better to have fixed days, and not varying ones. – Zerotime Nov 11 '15 at 21:46
  • Were you going to add that example to clarify the specific-days suggestion? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Nov 27 '15 at 20:26
  • @MonicaCellio Yes, I was. I'm sorry that it's taking so long. – Zerotime Nov 27 '15 at 21:23

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