How long should podcast episodes be? It's a question that podcasters have debated since the Dawn of iTunes. Is there any evidence that shorter podcast episodes outperform longer ones, or vice versa? We put the question to a panel of experts. Here's what they had to say. –Seth Resler
“Short or long enough to keep the listener engaged to the end. If you edit and work on creating a listening experience that is going to retain the listener for the duration of the show, then length will not to be an issue. One of the most undervalued podcast numbers is consumption, which is the radio equivalent of TSL. If you put in the extra time to edit and produce a great podcast, the listener will do one of two things; listen to all of it or come back later and listen to the rest of it.
Length matters a little more if you are putting out a daily podcast, or one with a short shelf life for content (like news or sports). Asking people to come back everyday is going to require a consistency with the show's length, that is going allow listening to become habit-forming. A quick scan of some daily news content podcasts reveals that episodes range from… (throwing out the high and low):
- This is Why: 22-25 minutes
- The Daily: 24-31 minutes
- The Big Story: 16-18 minutes
- The Ben Shapiro Show: 55-59 minutes”
“The length of an episode needs to be as long as necessary for one to get their message across while also being sustainable, so the podcaster can continue to produce, given their circumstances and available resources.
It’s relatively easy to follow rules and checklists about starting a podcast; keeping a podcast going is a whole other thing.
It is perfectly fine to decide on something for yourself, find out that it’s not working, and change publishing times and episode length to not only better serve yourself but your audience.”
“You need to keep your audience in mind. I'm not going to do a daily 20-minute episode for the Busy Moms podcast (because what busy mom has 20 minutes?). When people ask that question I sometimes answer, “How long can you hold their attention?” My favorite quote on this is from the book Beyond Powerful Radio by Valerie Geller and that is “There is no such thing as too long, only too boring.” If you have 20 minutes of material, please don't make that a 30-minute episode where I hear about your favorite French Toast recipe and your aunt's dog that ran away — when the show is about the latest tech news.”
–Dave Jackson, Founder, School of Podcasting
“Although I can cite the average length of podcasts and the average time people listen to podcasts, there is no definitive answer for the ideal length. Why? Because the ideal length is set by your targeted audience. Too many new podcasters skip the step of researching demographics. I know it's not as fun as coming up with your trailer or cover art but, it's a necessity if you want long-term success.
My advice is to find your audience first. Where are they? Do they congregate online in Facebook groups? Is there a local meet-up aligned with the theme of your podcast? Create a profile to define your ideal listener. Once you know your audience characteristics, you will be able to customize your podcast to fit within their lives. A two-hour long science fiction podcast may be great for one audience but way too long for a podcast geared towards busy parents.”
“When it comes to answering the question, ‘What is an ideal podcast episode show length?,' a one-size-fits-all answer does not apply. It's an impossible question to get right without understanding the premise of the show, the type of content that the show creates, and the preference of the ideal listener. While the content of some shows fit better in a quick and punchy format, other content is better delivered over a longer show time frame. The episodes for my podcast range from 30 minutes to one hour. I've even had some shows go longer than an hour. Why? Because the show length doesn't matter for me or my ideal listener. What matters is that I am able to deliver the content of the episode in an informative and entertaining way that holds my listener's attention.
Unless the promise to your listener is ‘quick and easy' or ‘in-depth long-form interviews,' your overall goal should not be to rush through or prolong an episode for the sake of making it fit into a pre-determined time frame. Instead, look at the content and benefit you are providing to your listener. Overall, it's better to lead first with delivering information that is meaningful and provides value to your audience.”
–Jamila Souffrant, host of the Journey to Launch podcast
“I often wonder if this is a question that is unique to our industry. I struggle to believe that someone starts out writing a novel and confining or committing themselves to a certain page length before even putting pen to paper. I think the question we’re trying to answer should be different. To me, it’s not what the ideal length of a podcast episode is – it should be, ‘What is the ideal length for your podcast episode?'
If you have a tight, well produced show that has a solid flow, great momentum, good listener engagement and it’s 30 minutes long, then it should probably be 30 minutes long. If you don’t, and you’re struggling to fill it or if you see people continually dropping off after the 10-minute mark in your analytics… well, it probably should be a bit shorter. If you’re unsure, try looking at other shows in your subject category and see if there is a trend amongst the top performers. Or maybe there is an opportunity to differentiate yourself by length? Ultimately, think of your listener and aim to provide them the best experience possible. Do that, and you’ll find the best length for your podcast episodes naturally.”
–Sharon Taylor, CEO of Omny Studio