Podcast length is a hot topic, especially for people new to podcasting. So what is the ideal podcast length if you want to win over new listeners? Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard explore these questions and more in this episode. Tom and Tracy look at the things that influence episode length and how you can determine the right episode length for your podcast. Tune in, and don’t miss out on the answer to this burning question.
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What Is The Latest Most Ideal Podcast Episode Length That Wins Listeners?
We’re here to talk about all the things happening in the podcasting world that you want to know about. One of those things that we get the question about again and again is episode length. How long should your show be? We have decided to spin that a little bit because we have covered this topic before. Has the podcast episode length changed over time? Is it different today than it was yesterday? That’s what our topic is. Tom, what do you think? Has it changed?
It has changed since the time we started podcasting. I do think it has. In general, you’re right. This is the number one question I get asked almost on a daily basis by either a prospect or a relatively new podcaster who’s getting ready to launch their show and working with us. It’s a very popular and often asked question. The answer is usually surprising, especially to new people. There are some new things to consider as you’re a seasoned podcaster in your podcasting journey.
It’s a different answer if you’re starting than when you’re seasoned and you already know your audience. When you’re starting, you don’t know your audience. The advice in the general marketplace when we started our first podcast years ago was it should be the length of an average commute, which was twenty minutes. What is the average commute to your living room? It’s five seconds. That doesn’t bode well for the way the world works now.
That’s not good advice. It turned out not to be great advice for us back then. The first comment we got back from our listeners was, “Can you make the show longer?” We were shocked like, “They want to hear more from us?” It’s listener dependent. That’s what we always tell everyone, but that sounds like such a vague answer. Here’s my more generalized audience answer. If you have an audience with the shortest attention span like if your focus is all TikTokers and digital marketers, digital marketers have the attention span of a gnat. They don’t want to hear anything that’s not a soundbite.
They want something quick to consume. The Buffer app, which is a social media hosting app, has a podcast. When they started their podcast, they had a long episode. The thing that they discovered was that all of their audience was crashing out within the first five minutes, which is not typical for your average consumption time of podcasts. We typically see people listen 70% or more through any episode, no matter what the length is. That’s the average of it.
If they’re crashing through that episode at five minutes and not listening to the whole thing and barely consuming 10% of it, then it wasn’t working for them. That’s because their audience was all social media marketers. They wanted something quick, not something long. When they shifted their show to an under ten-minute format and focused on a single topic, they did a whole lot better. In their show now, they do more of those a week to still do 30 minutes of the show, which is what they wanted.
They still get the amount of content out. They just do more of it. That’s how they compensate for the total time. In essence, they are still doing 30 minutes a week. The difference is what your audience is willing to consume and listen to. The second part of it is your business focus. Tom, you can talk about that a little bit. If your business focus is in a certain area, then you need to have a specific link to meet that business focus.
Honestly, we find that for the vast majority of podcasters that we work with, their audiences prefer deeper dives into small niche topics. They don’t just want that 5 to 10-minute episode. That’s more of an appetizer. They want the full meal. Even if they have a 20 to 25-minute commute in the morning and the evening, they will listen to half the episode in the morning and half the episode in the evening on their way back. If they’ve only got 30 minutes to listen and you’ve got a one-hour episode, they will put it on double speed playing back in their app, which most of you know.
In case you don’t, most listening apps will allow people to playback at 1X speed, which is normal, 1.5X, 2X and more. 2X speed for most people doesn’t sound all that odd. You would be surprised, especially if you’re listening to somebody like me. If you’re listening to me, I’m a little slower and more deliberate speaker. You might want to listen to me because you’re like, “Tom, hurry up. Get on with it.” Tracy, who speaks at 90 miles an hour a lot of the time, might be a little much to catch everything.
I’m told I’m 1.2X to 1.5X. That’s what I’m told by binge listeners on our shows. That’s what I hear. There have been significant studies out there. We call them podfasters. It’s the fast consumption of it. They have done studies with students in learning situations, and 1.5X speed of consuming content, in general, is fine. With 2X, you start to lose a little bit unless the speaker is slower. That’s the only difference there. With 2X, you aren’t absorbing enough information. 1.5X is good and very common. This is what happens. That’s why your episode length is going to get adjusted based on the listeners’ time commitment. How much time can they commit?
As you go from being a new podcaster to having an established show and more listener engagement, you will get feedback. You will get a sense of, “Is the length of the episode an issue for them one way or the other?” I appreciate what you said upfront about the example of a ten-minute episode. What we typically see is podcasters that are recording a solocast, meaning one person speaking in a monologue, tend to see an average length being 20 to 25 minutes or maybe 15 to 25.
If it’s an interview episode or a dialogue with two people talking, a lot of times we will see an average being 40 to 45 minutes but up to 1 hour is not all that uncommon. There are extremes on either side of that. I will share with you from an SEO perspective if you’re converting your episodes into blogs, which all the Podetize done-for-you podcasters are having that done for them for many good reasons that we have talked about on other episodes. A twenty-minute episode is the minimum for optimal SEO indexing of a blog post or speech-to-text from a podcast.
Think about your show notes, blog or whatever that might be.
There’s no upper limit on that. Google likes longer-form content.
The reward on the digital marketing side of things is going to reward you well. They’re snack-sized like soundbites. Thirty seconds is common in social media, but you will have tons of opportunities for 30-second clips if you’re doing about 20-minute content. All of that is still going to serve you. It doesn’t need to match the final output that you’re looking for if what you’re looking for is jazzing up your Instagram, TikTok or whatever that is. You can have that content creation be much longer tail and do more for you in general.
The two things I want you to think about as you’re thinking about the lengths of your show and should you shift if you already have a show, that’s also a thought process, are have you heard feedback from your audience and who your audience is. When you’re starting, sometimes we don’t know. That’s why we go with our best guess. We do coaching calls and other things. If we already know what that optimum length might be, then you’re good. You’re in that window.
Go slightly shorter than what you would do on a Q&A or coaching because you’re shortening up to not having that question and answer, not having that extra coaching time, and not having the immediate audience feedback on the podcast side of things. You want to make it a little bit shorter than that. That’s about it. You’re measuring against that audience and their attention span, and your business goals. Is my goal to get clients from this, drive people to consume my course, buy my book or do some of these things?
If it’s any of those, you want to be on the size that Tom was mentioning. It’s 20 to 25 minutes for solo or 40, 45 and all the way up to under 1 hour. Try to keep it in the 55 range. When you hit over 60, there’s a mental thing that happens there. Keep it under that 58 minutes or whatever it is. Keeping it under that is going to serve you better. If your model is the Joe Rogan model where all you’re doing is cramming advertising into everything. The sole purpose of the show is to take advertisers, then you want a longer show. If you have a longer show, you can squeeze more ads in. You have more spots to sell.
You want to ease up on that over time. If you’re starting and you’re like, “My goal is to have advertisers,” but you’re starting your show out, maybe you start your show at 30 minutes because you could do two ads without any problem in a 30-minute. You could even do three but I recommend two. Two is good for a 30-minute show. Do a 30-minute show. After you have gotten 20 to 25 episodes in, maybe you want to increase it up to 45 minutes. Now, you can do three ads.
As you start to add advertisers, max out on your advertisements, and fill those slots on a regular basis, now you will lengthen your show. That’s how Joe Rogan did it. He didn’t start at 90 minutes in the beginning. He was only doing one hour in the beginning, but his format got longer the more advertisers he got because that was the sole purpose of the show. You want to do the same if that’s your purpose but it’s shifting over time. This is where the average length changes. Here’s what we say. Show length has shortened but the listen-through is what we’re paying attention to.
If our show length has shortened and our listen-through is going from 70% or more, we’re doing well. If we shorten our show and it’s not getting any more listenership, are we serving our audience and doing well there? If we do a longer show and we’re getting crashed out like in the Buffer example where they’re crashing out faster, then we’re not serving ourselves and making more content than we need as well. We want to optimize right around the point at which we’re getting the optimum listenership as much through it as possible.If you have an audience with the shortest attention span like TikTokers and digital marketers, they don't want to hear anything that's not a sound bite. Click To Tweet
What I would like to share with our podcasters in this episode is that if you’re prerecording and you’re not recording your show as a livestream, you can end up editing and making your show any length you want. You just have to make decisions on what you want to cut from it and what you don’t. What we find is that podcast listeners are different from radio. Let’s briefly touch on this.
Back in the history of broadcasting, if you had a radio show and you had an hour slot to fill, your show is going to be an hour every time, whether your topic deserved an hour of time or didn’t. You would be stretching content to fill that time, taking a break every 13 minutes for 2 minutes of commercials, and getting 4 of them in an hour. It was pretty contrived to try to fill all that airtime.
That’s why they have segments and breaks because its purpose is an advertising vehicle. Keep that in mind.
In podcasting, it’s an entirely different relationship. First of all, you’re not broadcasting things randomly and you’re hoping there are enough people listening at the time you happen to be live on the air. You’ve got people opting in. They want to listen to your content. They’re selecting and choosing you. They’re interested in your topic. They want you to take a deep dive into a niche topic within your genre. What we always recommend for the length of time is, first of all, especially as a new podcaster, I don’t recommend you watch the clock.
Decide what your topic is going to be and speak on that topic until it feels complete. It’s the same thing if you’re interviewing somebody. Interview them until you have no more curiosity. You’ve had a good conversation and you don’t have any more burning questions. Talk about that and have that discussion until it feels complete, end it and see what that length is. You can always edit it shorter if you need to.
To sum up, the podcast episode length hasn’t changed over time. It’s still at what is best for the audience you’re trying to attract and the business model you’re going after. That’s where you fit into that. Think carefully about that. Maybe survey some of your audience, find out some before you set that and don’t worry. It’s an experiment. You can always change this over time because you don’t have to get stuck into the one-hour radio model. You get to determine what your model is at each stage of your podcast journey.The podcast episode length hasn't changed over time. It's still at what is best for the audience you're trying to attract and the business model you're going after. Click To Tweet
Thanks, everybody. We will be back next time with another great episode.