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When is the best time to post a story? -- Answered with SCIENCE! · 1:24am Jun 5th, 2015

After a year of analyzing the feature box, and after over 50,000 data points collected, I'm finally ready to share what I've learned: I now know for certain when the best time to post a story is, and I'm about to let you in on it! (You may remember that I first released this at Everfree NW. Now it's going public for everyone.)

So, come take a look and give your stories a better chance of hitting the big time. More after the break.

For the last year, I've been analyzing Fimfic's feature box with a script. (Please don't kill me, mods! It only loaded the front page once every 10 minutes -- an insignificant load.) It took days to complete -- mostly because I'm not good at coding -- but it finally worked well, and it's been running smoothly for all of last year.

It mainly tracked 4 things:
-How many users were online.
-How many new stories were posted in the last 10 minutes.
-How many stories were added to the feature box in the last 10 minutes.
-How many stories were in both the 'new' and 'featured' boxes.

The latter two are a nice confirmation and give more insight into the data, but it's the first two I want to focus on.

But enough about my methods. Let's see some data porn!

This graph shows you the trends over the course of an average week:

I'll let you soak that in for a moment. ('Feature Volatility' is a measure of how many stories are in the feature box that weren't there 10 minutes ago.)
In particular, I want to show you the blue and purple lines: users online and new stories, respectively. More users online is good -- that means there are more people to read your story. More new stories is bad -- that means your story has more competition in attracting attention from those readers.
Hopefully, you can tell: Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are good days for posting a story. Friday is the worst.

To make that clearer, let's look at another graph.
This one shows the same trends over the course of an average week, but now you have a new green line, which is the ratio of readers to stories:

This shows you about what you'd expect (though it's easier to look at). I would point out that Tuesday, which had seemed slightly sub-par in the first graph, shows here to be an equally good day to post. While there are less users online Tuesday, there is also proportionately less competition.
All in all, this graph pretty much spells out which days are best to post on.

But that's too general. What time of day is best?
I've got that for you, too, down to 10-minute intervals.
(All times mentioned in this post are Pacific Standard Time. I'm using a 24-hour clock format because that's far easier to work with in the data handling side, and it makes for more precision in displaying to you here.)

Here are the same trends, but plotted out over the course of an average day:

First of all, check out that blue line for users online. That smooth wave is very constant throughout the data, and individual days pretty much never deviate from it. Even the strange bump just after 2000 (8pm) is always there.

You're probably wondering what that green filled-in section is for. That's my 'sweet spot': the time I think is best for posting a story.
If you look at the relationship between users online and new stories over the course of the day, you see that starting at around 0100 (1am), the ratio is pretty bad, then by around 0700 (7am), it evens out and they rise steadily together. At 1000 (10am), though, the number of new stories tends to level off, while the number of users online continues to climb. That's your chance! By that time in the day, most of the stories in the feature box will be at least a day old and losing their 'heat', which makes them easy targets to be replaced, and with the favorable ratio of readers to competition, you're in a good spot to take their place. That ratio remains strong until around 2000 (8pm), when a big spike of new stories comes online. Then the two numbers edge back toward each other, where they will again meet just after midnight, ready to start the cycle over again.

Now, let's look at the ratio of readers to competition closely:

You'll notice that the green line is highest from around 1200 (Noon) to just before 2000 (8pm).
Again, this is what I think is the best time to put a new story out there -- if it's a story that needs all the help it can get.
If you have a story that you know is going to hit the feature box, no matter when or under what conditions it's posted, you might use a slightly different tactic, though. In that case, you'll want to get it up there in time for the biggest swell of users online, to get the most readers you can out of that feature, so you may want to post it a little earlier.
And, of course, the time between you hitting 'submit' and the story actually going public is hard to predict, but thankfully, the window you're trying to hit is pretty wide.

Now, I don't want to overly color your interpretation of these results. The data is the data -- it's obviously right, but my interpretation of it could be wrong. (Though, from my few experiments of posting stories within that window on the right day, it seems to work pretty well.) And, of course, even the best timing can't make a flop hit the feature box, but if your stories are almost making it there, this might make the difference.

I encourage you to look at the data yourself and come to your own conclusions about when the best time to post is.
If anyone wants to look at the raw data -- a huge database filled with numbers, PM me. I would open it up to everyone, but pulling up all that data puts a considerable strain on my server, so I want to make sure the only people doing it are those who will put the data to good use, not just those looking at it as a curiosity. If you do compile any other reports or come to any other conclusions from the data, let me know; I'd love to hear what you've learned from it.

(Oh, and if you want to re-post this anywhere, feel free to do so. Please provide a link to the original, thanks!)

There's a lot more to getting into the feature box than getting your timing right. (And there's a lot more to writing horsewords than getting into the feature box!) And someday, perhaps, I'll go into some of the other tips and know-how you can use to increase your chances of featuring, but that'll be more than enough for its own blog post.

For now, I can only hope that I've helped some people improve their chances of becoming popular writers. Good luck!

As some of you might be sharp enough to guess, if enough people start using this advice, it will increase the amount of competition in what was formerly the best time to post.
I'll now be doing a second study along the same lines, and I'll be looking to see if writers' reaction to this data changes the results any. At the end of that, I'll make another blog post explaining the changes, if any. Be sure to follow me if you want to be notified when that happens!

Report ocalhoun · 31,658 views ·
Comments ( 156 )


Dude. This is amazing.

I was actually thinking of your feature box science earlier this week:
Obviously, you're not the only one who tries to predict the behavior of the feature box. To my mind, it's much like trying to predict the behavior of a herd of cats: generally, you can get some kind of an idea about what they're going to do; however, on a case-by-case basis, they're cats.


Only reason I bring this up is that my most recent featured story broke most of the cardinal rules (a not-so-good cover image, weak story description, no pre-readers or editors [not even me; I just spellchecked the sucker]). Didn't add it to any groups, didn't prep my followers for it . . . just kind of tossed it out there on a whim.

Do you not know that the default time zone is the Eastern Time Zone? For all you muggles out there, ocalhoun means between 3:00 p.m. Eastern and 11:00p.m. Eastern.

While this information being public probably would slightly change things, I doubt it would affect much because- no offence- not enough people follow you to make a big difference. No single user does, really. Maybe Rainbow Bob, Pen Stroke, and Shortskirtandexplosions all posting at the same time would make a big difference, but not just you. Although what do I know- if fimfiction statistics are weird enough there's always a bump like that after 8.

Is that bump there even on weekends? I could see it being people just checking their feed/short good looking stories before leaving for workdays, but that'd make no sense on weekends.

If only it were possible to upvote a blog...

Thanks. ^.^ Hope it helps.

Heh, yeah. This is what the feature box does on average. The more specific you get, the less predictable it is.
Still, some things, like the number of users online, have shown to be very predictable, actually.

I live in Pacific time, so that's how I made all the data. If you are in a different time zone, you may have to adjust the results.

This... is kind of surprising. Then again, that spike at 2000 does roughly overlap with when people usually clop, at least in N. America.

Wait, adding it to groups works?

Yep, that bump is there on every single day. It makes no sense.
And yeah, I know any change in the data will probably be slight... but it might not actually take much to throw it off. One or two extra stories at the right time could completely change the outlook of a given day.

I know that feel! ^.^
(Mostly when I'm reading Viking ZX's blogs.)

Heh. That might just explain it!

It does help.
That's why I'm a member of hundreds of groups! ^.^


Still, some things, like the number of users online, have shown to be very predictable, actually.

I figured it generally started bumping up around 2.00 EST during the week--people getting out of school. That does look to be the case. One story that I was aiming at the feature box I timed so that it would be published right about then.

Of course, it didn't get featured.

Now you know why! ^.^
There's also a corresponding bump of new stories posted at that same time, so it's not very good.
(Yeah, I know. There are probably other reasons it didn't feature... but that could be one of them.)

Sometimes, but it's no guarantee. It widens your potential pool of readers (you see a notification, if you're a member of the group), but of course there are so many of those that go by, if you're in a large group, it might pass unnoticed; if you're in a small group, there won't be all that many new readers anyway.

It can't hurt, though. Unless you're totally spamming the group threads, and piss off enough people that they downvote on principle.


(Yeah, I know. There are probably other reasons it didn't feature... but that could be one of them.)

I think I just misjudged the audience. Apparently, nobody wants to read a comedy about griffon on pony sex.


I'll keep than in mind when I try again, ty.

Well, uh, the site is based in Britain, so the default time zone would be GMT. Actually.

Huh. I'm surprised that Friday is the worst. One would think it was the best. Clearly an opinion shared by many people who probably post their fic and then log off as they wait for the assumed post-working-week audience to kick up their heels and flip open their various devices.

Maybe people have better things to do on weekends than read fanfic? I don't know.

3124078 No, you misunderstand me. I mean the worldwide default time zone is Eastern. Sorry for any confusion.:twilightsmile:

So the graph proves what I already thought I knew...

So my intent to aim for updating on 3-4pm on Thursday is a pretty good.


Or it could just be that your take on Gryphon-on-Pony sex is just really... weird. :derpytongue2:

Such blasphemy! :pinkiegasp:
You're probably right though. Sunday might be considered reading day.


Or it could just be that your take on Gryphon-on-Pony sex is just really... weird.

A valid point, but one has to read the story to discover that.

There's a worldwide default? :rainbowderp:
And it's not GMT? :rainbowhuh:

Heh, cool.
If you had already intuited everything here, you're doing really good!

I love you man.

The most interesting feature of that graph is the dearth of people online on Fridays; that surprises me. I suspect a lot of people launch stories on Fridays in hopes of catching all the weekend viewers, but I had thought there would be a lot more people online on Fridays.

Heh, yeah. That is one of the most surprising things.
Good to know!

I hope people would bother to read my exploitation movie-style story though...

Hopefully this helps! ^.^

3124099 Nope. It is Eastern. Because America.

I think you mean 'Murica.
But seriously, who says that's the 'default' time zone? Even the American military defaults to 'Zulu' (GMT) when they need a universal time zone.

Then why is Eastern considered ( -4 GMT )? :raritywink:

My story? Feature box? Not likely, but it's nice to have a formula.



3124126 Well that is the Military. They have to be humble in at least one respect. And time zone seems the perfect one.

3124127 Because GMT - 4 = USA


Because GMT - 4 = USA

My point is that exactly. Why is GMT not called (EST +4) ?

"Patriotism is the misguided belief that your country is superior simply because you were born in it."


Also: 8pm spike
Glance at clock

Turns out some of the FiMfiction readership have might social lives! Who knew? :duck:

(But obviously the writers don't.)

This all actually lines up pretty well with the conventional wisdom (which may have been based on some data from Bad Horse?) that I heard three years ago. Which is cool, because I had no idea if it was still valid.

Finally an actual answer to this question. Well done. Yay Science.

That daily spike is really weird. It would be interesting to find out what causes that.

It's likelier than you think!
I find feature boxing is most influenced by having an original, interesting idea, and anybody can do that.

I'm surprised it took this long for people to be doing that.

Aha! The 8pm spike is YOU!
(So tell me, why are you on Fimfic now, rather than some other time?)

Heh. That's probably -- and depressingly -- true. Readers have social lives. Writers don't.

I do what I can. ^.^

I'd love to know if anybody figures it out.
If I cared enough, maybe I could dig through the raw data, looking for days when it didn't happen. Maybe that would give some clues.

3124367 How do you have the data formatted? That could probably be done fairly easily with a short python script.

It's all in a MySQL database, with individual rows for each 10-minute data point.
I could get you access to it if you want.


Well, I didn't want to just go around telling everyone because then I'd create more competition. But now you have... :rainbowwild:

3124382 I'd love to give it a shot, but I'm not completely sure if I'd actually get it done. On the one hand I'm fascinated by the concept, and really should learn MySQL anyway, but on the other hand I'd have to learn how to use MySQL and I have a very unreliable attention span. I range from Twilight "It's morning already?" Sparkle to Rainbow Dash trying to read the dictionary. Entirely your call.

Just got back from dinner.

As a fully licensed Chemical Enginerr, fucking brilliant. I already posted my stories at approximately 3PM (EST, so 11 AM PST), noting that it went the best for me, but your data only confirms my own theories. I, also, did notice more success when I posted stories earlier in the week, but I didn't consider the significant effect of it.

I wonder if people knowing this will appreciably change the trends? That would be interesting.


Heh. The prerogative of someone who's popular enough to not fear competition anymore. :twilightblush:

Yeah... seems like a lot of people had an intuitive sense of when the best time was, but it's good to know for sure.

I always thought the best time to post was around 3-8 p.m. Thanks for putting that to rest.

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