Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Many of us believe that people’s attention spans are getting shorter. With this in mind, content should also be getting shorter. Otherwise, no one will sit around long enough to consume it, surely? But that’s not necessarily true. After all, we binge-watch TV series, sit through live-streams, and read books – hours and hours can pass and we’re still hooked.
So, with these conflicting ideas circulating, how are we supposed to figure out the perfect podcast length? Or, perhaps more importantly, is there a perfect podcast length?
According to Acast, if you take an average of their top 100 podcasts, the average episode length is 38 minutes and 10 seconds (as of November 1st 2021).
A study by Dan Misener came to a similar conclusion – he analysed a whopping 19 million podcast episodes and found the median length to be 36 minutes and 34 seconds.
Dan also broke down median podcast episode lengths by category. Video game podcasts came out as the longest category, with a median length of 66.42 minutes, followed closely (and rather unexpectedly) by wrestling podcasts. On the other hand, the shortest episodes fell under the language learning category, with astronomy, news, and children-focussed categories following closely behind.
One size does not fit all
Podcasts differ in genres, hosts, formats, and so on. If we consider how much variation there is in the podcasting world, it seems illogical to think there would be a ‘perfect length’ that applies to all of them. It all comes down to context. If you’re making a news podcast aiming to give you a quick updates, you hardly want it to drag on for hours. But if you’re doing long, unfiltered, intimate interviews, these typically demand more time.
To determine how long your podcast should be, ask yourself a few questions:
- What is the story I’m telling?
- How much time do I need to tell that story well? Don’t make it longer for the sake of it, and don’t cut it short because you think people are more likely to listen. Find a balance that allows you to craft a well-rounded episode.
- Understand your listener. Who exactly are you talking to with this podcast? Is it someone who is listening to podcasts while they cook all afternoon, or drive all day? Or are you talking to someone who can only listen during their short work commute?
- How often will you publish? If your podcast is a daily show but it’s 3 hours long, is that giving you enough time to edit it well, or for listeners to consume the last episode before the next one is out?
- Be consistent. Listeners will begin to expect a certain structure and pace for your podcast, so if you suddenly go from 3 minute episodes to 3 hour episodes you’re likely to put them off.
Once you’ve answered those questions, play around with the edit and see what fits the content best.
The beauty of podcasting
The great thing about podcasts is that we don’t need to obey the typical radio station or TV timetable. We’re not restricted by the bounds of traditional media, so we can experiment with unconventional timings. Don’t be afraid to ‘try something different’ if you’re doing it for a good reason.
Quality over quantity
While length is important, make sure you prioritise the content and quality of the show because that’s what will keep people coming back for more regardless of the length.