How Many Posts Are Too Many?

Yesterday, I published three blog posts in the space of a few hours. It got me thinking about what the optimal number of posts are on a given day. I go through phases of writing and right now, I am on one of my manic phases, writing a lot of posts. There is nothing wrong with that, except that I feel compelled to publish the post right away. I should probably hold some of these back for days when I am not so prolific, but the posts burn a hole in my drafts folder, and I relent.

On days when I publish multiple posts, no one post performs as well as on days when I have just a single post. I haven’t explored the data for this in any detail it is just intuitive. In November, I published 41 posts. I published a post on every day of the month, and that means that I averaged 1-1/3rd posts per day. On average my posts were just shy of 500 words each.

Blog word count
A look a the monthly word counts of posts on my blog over the last 11+ years.

Since November 2005, I’ve published 6,105 posts. That’s a time span over just over 4,000 days, and it means that on average, I published 1.5 posts per day. I wonder how this corresponds to the traffic I see on the blog? Would I see more traffic if I published just 1 post per day on average? It seems counterintuitive. Popular blogs seem to be publishing frantically. You’d think all of those posts would compete with one another.

Feedly tells me that Lifehacker publishes 177 stories per week. That’s more than one story per hour, for every hour of the week. The Verge publishes 279 stories per week. The Mary Sue publishes 98 stories per week. Feedly tells me that my blog posts, on average, 10 stories per week. Book authors are often warned not to saturate the market with more than one book per year, lest the books compete with one another. That doesn’t seem to be the case with blogging.

I’ve been blogging for a long time now. I think its fair to say that with more than 10 years, 6,000 posts, and 2.2 million words of copy, that I’m something of an expert. But I still feel like I don’t know what I am doing sometimes. And so sometimes I publish three posts in a single day, even when it is not necessarily the best thing to do.

I think of the blog the way I imagine a syndicated columnist thinks about their column: if you have a weekly column, you publish one column per week. For me, it’s a daily column, and I aim for one column per day.

I need to remind myself that I can write as many posts as I want in a day. I just need to have a little self-control when it comes to hitting the Publish button.

4 thoughts on “How Many Posts Are Too Many?

  1. I’m not sure I agree. Short of the risk of too many posts totally ruining your blog for your readers, the only real issue seems to be having those spikes of high activity during your “manic” phases and low activity during your off phases.

    I suppose you could write posts to hold back for those quiet times. It would certainly balance out your feed. I go through similar phases with my blog. I have times where I post multiple times a day and others where weeks go by with very little.

    When I think about how much I do (or don’t) publish on my blog, I usually come back around to why I write for my blog in the first place. For me, it’s one of my main creative outlets.

    I write about stuff that just has to be written about. If I don’t write about those things, they bug me until I do. If I hold them back for some reason, they tend to wither and I feel as if I wasted my creative energy creating them in the first place.

    I’m not sure if this makes a lot of sense. As a reader, if anything ruins my experience it is a writer who doesn’t publish enough based on my expectations which are, in turn, influenced by how often the writer tends to publish and what s/he tends to write about.

    Posting a lot isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it is worth reading. It just means I have a few more items to send to Instapaper to read.

  2. Paul, I agree that consistency is best. I try for a post a day. Some days I post more. It just happened that I noticed after a long streak of single-post days, there was a drop in traffic to the site yesterday when I made 3 posts. Could be a coincidence. I try not to let the site traffic influence my behavior, but sometimes, I can’t help it.

    I think your notion of the blog as a primary creative outlet is a good one. I can’t explain exactly why I enjoy writing for the blog so much, but I do. I suppose it gives me the same kind of satisfaction that a woodworker gets taking raw lumber and turning it into tables and chairs and chests in their workshop.

  3. Aside from not knowing what to do with raw lumber if I had it, I think I know what you mean. It may be that the sudden increase in posts prompted some people to hold off on reading the new posts till they have more time. That is mostly a guess.

    I imagine it may also depend a bit on how people read your stuff. I subscribe to your feed and pick up on updates that way. I subscribe to too many feeds to go through everything every day so I tend to either binge on new posts or pick at the interesting ones and leave the others for later.

    That’s just me, of course.

  4. Just my two cents here. I also get posts pushed into feedly and will occasionally wait and work through them later if a lot come out at once. But some part of my brain definitely has a “less is more” mentality and there’s some pretty low boundary point (maybe 3 posts for an individual, 5 for a group) wherein I assume there are many posts, so some must not be worth reading. I’m more likely to skim titles than thoughtfully read at that point, unless the content seems outstanding.

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