How long should your podcast be? Does size matter?

Podcasting Aug 10, 2020

How long should your podcasts be? It’s a pertinent question when you’re just starting. Podcasts are a great way to expand your digital presence beyond blogging and making YouTube videos.

After all, according to Edison Research, around 90 million Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis, and this rate is only increasing at breakneck speed.

In this blog post, you’ll learn:

  • Factors behind choosing how long should your podcasts be
  • The average episode length for various podcast categories
  • Schedule and frequency of content
  • Important listening behaviours

Let’s go!

Read these 3 important factors when choosing how long your podcasts should be

Let’s cut to the chase. Here are factors to consider when choosing how long your podcasts should be. You’ll rapidly realise that there’s no straightforward way to answer this question.

Industry average length

When deciding over how long your podcasts should be, look into how long your competitors’ podcast shows are.

Feeling lazy to do your research? Hehe. Don’t worry. As always, the Internet is full of amazing content creators and data analysts willing to share their findings.

how long should my podcast be

Pacific Content analysed median episode length of over 10 million podcast episodes. Then, they classified them into different categories.

As you can see, the question of how long should your podcasts be also depends on the category you’re in. Video game podcast shows tend to be the longest, while business and marketing podcast shows fall in the lower end of the spectrum.

Should you follow these figures when figuring out how long your podcasts should be? Depends. After all, these are the averages for each category. For every single category, successful podcast shows last a lot shorter or longer than the average. Ultimately, the ideal podcast length will depend on your content.

For example, take the podcast show of Striqo’s founder, Marketing Mashup with James McKinven. Each episode lasts well above the industry averages for marketing and business podcasts, but each one is full of content that’s relevant for marketers and founders everywhere wanting to build things from scratch.

marketing-mashup-podcast

If you try to stretch an episode that only has 10-minutes worth of relevant content, you’ll end up with frustrated listeners who’ll dislike your filler content.

At the same time, if you feel like your episodes need to last longer than the industry average because it’s packing with great content, then go for it.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what lets you grow your audience. You need to keep doing what’s best for you and to scale up your podcast growth based on those metrics.

Schedule and frequency of content

Stick to a regular schedule. If you’re publishing 3 podcast episodes in one week and none the next, your subscribers will end up being confused and unsubscribing to your podcast.

Your audience wants consistency over your episode length and your schedule. Your publishing schedule should also inform your episode length. As a best practice, the more frequent your podcast show is, the shorter its episode length should be.

Unless you have a whole podcast team behind you, churning out 1-hour podcast episodes every day might lead to an audience that can’t keep up with you or low-quality content.

Here’s a table to help you figure out how long your podcasts should be based on your publishing schedule.

how long should my podcast be

Notice that the recommended cut-off point is at 60-90 minutes. After 90 minutes, the listener’s attention starts to wander off. As always, there are notable exceptions, but podcast episodes that are 60-90 minutes long are a safe bet to grow an engaged podcast audience.

For example, Marketing School by Neil Patel and Eric Siu is a daily marketing podcast explaining the ins and outs of online marketing, from creating great editorial content for your SEO strategy to some social media ad tactics to get your paid channel strategy get started.

Because they’re publishing episodes daily, each episode only lasts between 5 to 10 minutes long. But each one contains so much valuable information.

Listening behaviours

Average commuting time

In the US, the average commuting time is 26 minutes, in the UK, it's 59 minutes! This is the figure that most people consider when figuring out how long their podcasts should be. With podcasting being a passive medium, most listeners are likely to listen to podcasts while doing something else, such as commuting to work, jogging, or cleaning.

At the same time, if you look more closely at the data, you’ll realise that commuting time in some places like New York or London, it can take up to 90 minutes. So, for example, if you’re targeting the techies in these areas, having a podcast episode that lasts for more than 30 minutes might be acceptable.

Make the first 5 minutes count

According to NPR One, a typical podcast episode loses around 20% to 35% of its listeners within the first 5 minutes. The rate of the dropoff is much steeper within the first 5 minutes than at any point in the podcast.

This retention graph illustrates similar findings when regarding dropoff points.

podcast dropoff minutes

This retention graph shows the behaviour of a podcast audience listening to different episodes of a science podcast. As you can see here, there are steep dropoff points every 5 minutes.

Key takeaway in this? Make sure that your first 5 minutes count. This is the crucial moment when your listeners decide whether it’s better to stick around or listen to another podcast show.

NPR One shares another important finding: they use tactics to re-engage with their audience every 2.5-5 minutes to minimise the amount that bounces off. Based on their dataset, they also recommend that you keep your podcast episodes between 18-30 minutes long to keep your audience engaged.

With all said and done, should you keep your podcast episodes shorts to avoid the decline?

Long-form podcasts shows are thriving

Deciding how long podcasts should be is not science. There are so many factors behind growing an audience beyond figuring out when your listeners start to drop off.

After all, these same people who stop listening won’t be the ones who’ll want to subscribe. Ultimately, if you have great content for long podcast episodes, go for it.

In fact, the top 100 Apple podcasts in the US includes many shows that average for more than 45 minutes. The Joe Rogan Experience averages at around 2 hours 30 minutes!

Long? Short? Size matters, but content is king.

There you have it. The question of long should your podcasts be depends on so many different factors, such as the industry average for podcast episodes, your publishing schedule, and listening behaviours.

Ultimately, for your podcast to be effective, at whatever length, your content needs to be top-notch. And how long your podcasts should be will entirely depend on how many minutes of relevant content can you offer to your audience.

That said, there are engagement tactics that are related to podcast length. Make sure that your first 5 minutes count, as the fifth minute is when the first drop off occurs. Employ re-engagement tactics every 3-5 minutes or so to attract your listeners’ attention when it’s wandering off.

And finally, have fun. When you’re creating high-quality content that you feel passionate about, your listeners will feel this, regardless of how long your podcasts are.

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This is a guest post from Julian Canlas, the founder of Embarque, a content marketing agency that helps brands create SEO blog posts that convert.

Julian Canlas

Julian Canlas is the founder of Embarque, a content marketing agency that helps brands create SEO blog posts that convert.

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