One of the major things to consider when creating a successful podcast is your episode length. Should episodes be short and to the point, or is there value in a 90-minutes plus show? There are so many great podcasts out there that you can use them as a frame of reference to help you get through most of your podcasting dilemmas, but unfortunately when it comes to how long your episode should be it’s all up to you, and most of all, your audience.
Each podcast is different; you might have the same topic of discussion or even be an extension of another podcast, but that doesn’t mean that your episodes will be the same length. Finding the perfect length all depends on your show and the people you are catering to. Getting to that sweet spot of time length that works best for your podcast will take some time and effort. You’ll need to sit down and consider all of the possible variables, like your audience, your daily schedule, and even something as simple as how often you publish new content.
Taking the time to work it out is definitely an investment of time initially, but it will be worth it in the end and can be the differentiator between losing listeners and gaining them! So let’s take a look at the top questions you need to take into consideration when deciding if your episodes should be shorter or longer.
What is Your Topic?
When you’re busy calculating how long your episode should be, always keep in mind the point that you’re trying to get across with each show episode. Some topics might take longer to get through because you need to take it slow and explain. This might even warrant for the episode to be split into two so as to not overwhelm your audience with a ton of information. Whereas another topic might just take you a few minutes because there’s no explanation needed; it’s just simple and straightforward.
Of course, this is very dependant on the overall niche that your podcast is in as well. For example, if you have an educational podcast then you might need more time to ensure that everyone can understand the lesson that you are teaching. On the other hand, if you’re interviewing a guest who has an inspirational story to share then there won’t be as much explaining; they will simply be sharing their story with your audience. A great example of a short podcast is normally one covering the daily news, just a few minutes of talking, three times a day, with the latest on what’s happening. It’s important to keep your podcast just short enough so you don’t bore your audience but long enough to get all the information to them.
What Format Do You Use?
This one goes hand in hand with your topic; your topic will help determine your format and your format will determine the length of your episodes. Ensuring that your format is engaging and entertaining is important but it shouldn’t make your podcast unnecessarily long. So when planning your content keep in mind the intro and outro music you still need to be added, the sponsor messages and then, of course, any sound effects you might want to add in between.
Taking those things into consideration will help you decide how long your interviews or solo sessions should be, how many questions you can ask and even the tempo at which you should speak. These are all things that will affect the length of your podcast, most of which can be adjusted and changed to suit your desired podcast length.
Who Is Your Audience?
This is a question you should always ask yourself when you are making any kind of decision for your podcast. This is simply because your audience is one of the main reasons behind having a podcast. All podcasters begin by identifying their target audience, which is a group of people they are specifically focusing on. This means that the length of your podcast should also be specifically designed to match their needs.
For example, if you have a news podcast then your targeted audience only tunes in for a few minutes to hear the important stuff. They don’t necessarily want to listen to 30 minutes of unimportant news, but would rather have all the top highlights laid out in a quick news report. But if your podcast is conversationally focused and your listeners tune in to be entertained by the back and forth between yourself and your guest, they often have ample amounts of time to your conversation and what you can uncover, whether it takes an hour or more. Knowing who your audience will therefore definitely help you determine how long your podcast should be.
Related read: The 10 Must Do’s for Successful Podcasting
How Often Do You Publish?
Knowing how often you’re going to release content is really important when considering the length of your episodes since frequency and length are closely associated. Some podcasters publish multiple times a day and then some podcasts only publish one episode a week. The more episodes you release in a week the more content you’ll have to create, and therefore you won’t have time to spend hours on one episode alone. This usually means that when you publish more frequently you will also have shorter, more concise episodes. And vice versa; the less frequently you publish episodes the longer your episode will be to ensure you are able to give your audience enough value in each episode.
Keep in mind, this is also a good rule to follow to ensure that you consistently stick to your publishing schedule. When you are trying to do daily episodes while also making them long, drawn-out episodes, it might become harder for you to keep up with this rigid schedule, ultimately giving yourself content fatigue. So it is important to know yourself, understand your capacity, and find an episode length that will motivate and encourage you to stay on schedule!
Related read: How to Stay Motivated to Keep Podcasting
Where Do They Listen?
Understanding where your audience listens can be very helpful in determining episode length. Now, this might take a little more research on your end, but luckily for you, most hosting sites can provide you with this information. You can also find out more about where and when your audience listens by sending out a survey and gathering the data from your listeners. Knowing whether your audience listens to your podcast on their mobile phones, your website, or even on YouTube will help you to figure out how much time your audience has and what they might be doing while listening to the show.
Where they listen to your podcast has a big effect on the amount of attention they have focused on your podcast. For example, if they are listening on their mobile player between 6 and 8 in the morning, you can almost be sure that they are on their way to work. During their commute, your listeners will have a lot of uninterrupted time to tune in and be entertained on their drive to work. This is also true for those who are listening to your podcast at the gym or while out for a run. This uninterrupted time means they can really focus in on the episode. However, if they are just hopping on to listen to episodes in between their meetings or while on lunch break, they might just be looking for something quick and packed with information that is easily digestible in a short period of time.
What is Your Energy Level?
Knowing your energy level and your overall capacity to keep podcasting is key when determining your episode lengths. If you are an introvert, interviewing guests for hours on end might be extremely exhausting. However, if you are extroverted then this might not be a problem at all. In fact, it will fuel your energy as you go! So how long can you maintain your energy level? It does not help if you start your podcast all happy and excited and then your energy levels noticeably taper off as the episode gets longer. It is important to find that sweet spot where your episode ends before your enthusiasm starts to fade.
Your audience will immediately notice the difference in your voice, and if you are no longer interested in the episode, then why should they be? So it is absolutely critical to know yourself as a podcaster and figure out exactly what your capacity is. The best way to figure this out is to test it out a few times. Record yourself telling a long story and then afterward listen to it and see at what time you started to sound like your energy levels had dropped. To help keep energy levels up during your episode, break it up into different segments. Use your storytelling techniques, show breaks, and even sound effects to keep your audience engaged.
Figuring out the perfect length of your podcast is a hard equation to crack because there are many factors to consider. But once you’ve gathered all the information and tested out a few episodes, achieving that perfect episode length for your podcast will become easier each time. From there, it is important to keep your podcast length as consistent as your publishing schedule. Your audience will come to depend on this!