Lead Times 101: When to Pitch




Timing can make-or-break the success of media pitch. If you pitch a reporter with an incredible, perfect-for-them story idea – but your timing is wrong – your efforts will go unrewarded.

Thus, it’s essential to develop a solid understanding of the typical ‘lead times’ for different types of media outlets. (‘Lead time’ is the amount of time between when a reporter starts working on a story, and the date of that story’s ultimate publication.)

To help you time your pitches perfectly, we’ve put together the below list of lead times, by outlet type. (Please keep in mind, these are general time frames.)

National Magazines:

National magazines have the longest lead times – and this is particularly true for their ever-popular, highly competitive holiday gift guides.

For regular coverage, national magazines typically work 3-5 months out.

For gift guides, be ready to pitch your products in June. Yes, June. That’s roughly six months out from the holiday season. It seems crazy, but gift guide editors receive tons of information and products that they have to comb through to make their final decisions about what items to recommend to their readers.

Regional, Trade Magazines:

Regional and trade (industry) magazines have a shorter lead time than their national counterparts, but you still need to plan ahead.

Generally speaking, regional and trade magazines operate with a 1-2 month lead time.

Daily Newspapers:

For most types of coverage, daily newspapers work with a 1-3 week lead time.

Breaking news is the big exception here. If there is a major, breaking news event, reporters covering it will be turning around their articles quickly. You could send out your pitch, have an interview, and see the resulting article all within the same day.

TV:

Lead times for TV run the gamut.

Evening news programs tend to have a tight lead time – sometimes as short as same- or next-day.

Morning shows and news magazine programs (i.e. 60 Minutes, 20/20) work with longer lead times – sometimes up to a couple months, depending on the type of story. Of course, major stories requiring a more immediate focus can be turned around fairly quickly for these shows, too.

Radio:

Radio lead times vary, but are typically short. If you pitch yourself to a morning talk show, for example, don’t be surprised if the producer asks you to come on the show the next morning.

Podcasts:

Podcast lead times also vary, but a good rule of thumb is pitching 2-4 weeks out from when you’d ideally like your interview to run.

Podcasts can schedule their interviews quickly, but you can also expect there to be a lag time (~2-4 weeks) from the date of your interview and the posting date of your episode.

Blogs / Influencers:

Bloggers and influencers operate under their own set of rules. There isn’t a standard lead time for these outlets, so it’s usually best just to pitch and see what happens.

One tip to keep in mind: more popular influencers and well-read blogs are likely to have their content planned further in advance than newer or smaller outlets.