The webcomics blog about webcomics

Creative Clocks and Readers

Update schedules have been covered. But what about the time of day when the update appears? It is, after all, some sort of cliché thing that says “Timing is everything.�

Consider two types of readers:

(There are, of course, more. But for the sake of argument let’s go with this.)

Your insomniac readers, of which I am one, who wait until the midnight or 1 am updates to update before going to bed. Comics that get updated at night are Questionable Content and Megatokyo (except when behind. Then it becomes more like the second type here).
And your daytime readers, who read the comic when they wake up, on their lunch break, or after the evening news. Comics like this include Friendly Hostility, which comes with commentary.
When you update, of course, has something to do with what kind of person the creator is. Maybe you’re most creative at night, or in the afternoon. It really depends.

Do you make sure your content is up for the insomniacs? Or are you content to get the middle-of-the-day surfers?

Does it matter?

I tend to be the ‘insomniac reader,’ myself. Ultimately, I think consistency is more important, though; as long as readers know that they won’t be checking a site fruitlessly, they can easily go on at the most convenient time.

I wonder whether there is a split between readers in different time zones, though. I find myself checking recent site updates at midnight or later, but it wouldn’t be as practical for someone who lives on the east coast or outside the US to check those same updates until the next morning.

Consistency is WAY more important than what actual time you update. If you’re updating at roughly the same time on a regular basis, people know when to come to your site expecting a new strip. I tend to update QC between 10:30pm and midnight eastern standard time.

I get a lot of people hitting Refresh over and over from about 10:30pm EST every Sunday through Thursday night, sometimes to the point where the SQL database crashes! But they only really represent 10-15% of my total traffic. Most people are still hitting the site during regular daylight (American) hours.

But if you have plenty of readers, you may not want to update at the exact same time every day… otherwise you might get Jeph’s situation and have a server overload. I’d prefer the strip updated within a narrow timeframe, but readers of PVP and Megatokyo don’t seem to have minded a more flexible schedule over the years…

I have never been able to pinpoint the update schedule of my favourites to anything better than half a day. With daily strips, that’s less useful.

Of course, I live 18 or so hours ahead of the bulk of the comics I read so that makes things interesting.

Basically, so long as the comic updates roughly the correct number of 24 hour periods apart then I’m happy.

Don’t forget that there are more webcomicers and readers than just those in America. The point maybe becomes moot when considered globally as an insomniac in Paris is ill-served by midnight updates in New York.

As a creator, I update at midnight GMT even though I live in the US Central zone, because GMT is “Universal Time” and because that means I don’t have to stay up till midnight. I’m not always prompt, because that’s the dinner hour for me, but 10 to 15 percent of my readership isn’t enough to crash a server.

As a reader, I read enough webcomics to spread them across the day. I save the ones who aren’t always prompt for later in the day, and I don’t save the ones who are prompt for the end of the day in case I miss one.

I think it’s important to be fairly consistent with the time you update. I usually get it done around 11pm or midnight (my time) the night before, and I know I get complaints (like last night) if I’m even a half-hour late.

As a reader, it’s nice to know roughly when a comic will be up. I usually wind up checking Penny-Arcade a few times in the morning because I’m not really sure what time the comic will be up. Rich Burlew (Order of the Stick) is really late with his, generally — sometimes he doesn’t get his comics up until very late in the day when I’ve already checked his site a dozen times. It can be a bit frustrating, and a lot of times I won’t wind up checking the site at all for a couple days at a time. I guess this is the (sole) benefit of an RSS feed — readers will know when the new comic is up without having to hit the actual site.

I think consistency is the key. And I like to have my strip up by 12:01am my time. That way it’s up for a full 24 hours on update days. I’ve noticed the majority of my audience reads the strip between 8am and 11am. It’s also nice to have the strip up so I don’t have to get up early to post.

I’m a mid-morning (EST) reader and most all of the comics are waiting for me. If not, by late morning they’ve been updated. And it’s really nice, if one is going to be delayed, when the author puts a note on the page saying what time the new comic will be up.

[…] Uncategorized Okay, so we’ve already established that the twenty webcomics I read on a weekly basis do not constitute a good statistical sample. And I’ve talked about update schedules – both when to update and what happens when they’re not met. I guess this is the next in the continuing series of me talking about the methodology of webcomics and the readers who are creators weighing in. Really, I’m just feeling my way around in the dark. […]

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