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How long should your podcast be?

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Bigger isn’t always better…

“How long should my podcast be?” is a question that stumps almost every podcaster.  And it’s one people spend way too much time worrying about because the answer is simple…

The ideal length of your podcast is the ideal length for your content.

There should be no fluff, no additional crap, no rabbiting on for 20 minutes before you get into the good stuff. You need to be respectful of your listener’s time and only include the best of the best.

That often means the sweet spot for your podcast will be a lot shorter than you think.

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Remember, there are no rules in podcasting

In radio, you’ve got strict rules about how long you can talk because you’ve got to play music and get to the ad breaks.  And while this often feels restrictive it develops serious discipline and a skill for getting to the point quickly.

In podcasting, you don’t have any of those restrictions or parameters.  And while that freedom is amazing, if you don’t have the self-control to reign it in, it can mean your podcast can go way longer than it should.

So what are some things you should take into consideration when coming up with the ideal length for your podcast?

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What suits your audience?

If you think about who your podcast is for, decisions like ‘how long should my show be?’ become easier because the answer is: ‘what would my ideal listener want?’

If your podcast is designed for working mums they’d probably prefer each show was ten-minutes so they could fit it into their busy schedules.

If you’re doing a podcast for travellers an hour might seem like nothing since they’ll be looking for a way to pass the time as they move from one place to another.

Whatever length you choose you always want to leave your listeners wanting more.

Your podcast should wrap up at the point where people are yelling “Noooo! Don’t leave me!” or just at the moment they feel perfectly sated.

Wander past that moment and you’ll go from delivering content to hoards of screaming fans to limping across the finish line wondering where everyone went.

It’s also important to note that length is no measure of professionalism.

A 15-minute episode packed with awesome content doesn’t say ‘I’ve still got my training wheels on and can’t come up with any more content.’  It says ‘I know my audience doesn’t have a lot of time so I’m only giving them the best of the best.”

Why you should design an ideal listener for your podcast

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What suits your content?

If your show is an in-depth deep dive on a complex topic you’re not going to be able to do that justice in under ten minutes.

Conversely, if you can get your content out quickly there’s no reason to pad your show out to 40 minutes just because you think that’s how long a podcast should be.

With my podcast You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere, the episodes are usually an hour or longer because I’m sitting down with a media personality dissecting their entire career.

For my other show The PodSchool Podcast I’m sharing short actionable tips for people who want to start their own podcast, so sometimes the episodes are as short as five minutes.

Think about what it is you want to communicate and work out how much time you need to do that effectively.

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What’s REALLY achievable?

When you’re starting out it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of longer episodes only to realise it’s not sustainable.

Delivering content consistently is one of the most important factors if you want your show to be a success so you need to settle on a length you can maintain.

Filling 40 minutes to an hour is easy when you’re standing at the starting line, flush with ideas.  But you need to think about what’s going to be do-able seven months or seven years down the track.

If you’re not sure how easy it’s going to be to fill a longer show, try practising before you go live so you know how much work goes into releasing longer episodes and you can find your sweet spot.

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What’s your motivation?

If you start thinking “I need to fill an hour because most of the shows I listen to are an hour,” it’s going to be a painful ride for both you and your listener.

There is no one way to do a podcast and longer definitely doesn’t mean better.

In fact, most people don’t make it all the way through a podcast episode so the longer you make your show the less likely your listeners will consume all of it which means you’re basically wasting content at the end.

When you’re coming up with the right length focus on your show, your audience and your schedule rather than comparing yourself to others because what’s right for them might not be right for you.

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Think about what your listeners expect

One thing about an audience is once they’re on board they won’t like change.

That doesn’t mean they won’t be responsive to the show evolving and improving but one thing that doesn’t look like an improvement is when you significantly shorten the length of your episodes.

This doesn’t mean you have to deliver the same length every week to the millisecond. But if you start out at 30 minutes it’s always good to keep it as close as possible to that time.

I’ve experienced this first hand with my old podcast, Paul and Rach.

Originally we started the show at an hour but as time went on I became pickier about what I included in the final edit and the show got shorter and shorter.

Eventually, we settled around the 30-minute mark and our listeners eventually got used to it.  But in the early days, our inbox was getting a real workout with people constantly asking “where’s the rest of the show?”

The truth is, Paul and I were still recording over an hour of content but I’d pick out the best 30 minutes.  So we weren’t dedicating less time to each episode but all our listeners heard was that we were giving them less content than we’d originally promised.

It would have been better for us to have come out of the gate with 30-minute episodes, then drop additional bonus content so our listeners felt they were getting more rather than less.

Remember podcasting is a marathon not a sprint and while you don’t want your listeners to abandon you, you also don’t want to be too tired to finish the race!

So choose the length that’s right for YOU.

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

1 Comment
  1. Josh Rachlis says:

    Good advice! Although, it still leaves me wondering how long to make my podcast. lol. And I’m not even sure what to make my show about. I think I just want to interview interesting people, like Marc Maron and Joe Rogan too. But maybe I’d be nuts to record an hour and a half daily. I did interview an actor last week and we chatted for 90 minute. But I don’t know if anyone would want to listen to it. I could send you the file to see what you think! Or I could interview you for the show!

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Discover all the tools and tech you need to get your podcast started. Plus get access to my weekly podcasting tips delivered straight to your inbox!

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