There are many theories about the decrease in our attention spans due to the increase in technology, specifically mobile devices. A study done by Microsoft revealed that in the year 2000, the average attention span was twelve seconds, and today it is only eight seconds, a full second less than that of a goldfish. Now, obviously these numbers don’t directly apply to a podcast’s length but they are still relevant.
Studies show that the average student loses concentration after 20 minutes of a lecture. This same window applies to podcasts. Even if the attention is still there after the 22 minute recommended length, the retention drops significantly, giving the listener less value. If your audience is listening to your content but not registering the value, they are ultimately missing out.
Another variable that impacts the optimal podcast length is a person’s listening environment. If someone listens to a 40 minute podcast during a 30 minute commute to work, they either miss out on the additional 5 minutes, or they have to find time in the day to catch up [the average commute time is approximately 30 minutes]. With the continued increase in mobile usage, many podcast listeners are taking advantage of this commute time.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this. Serial, one of the most popular podcasts of all time, averages approximately 50 minutes per episode. The Tim Ferriss Show averages around 80 minutes per episode. So you can see that it is possible to become successful with a longer show, but in general, the 22 minute rule trumps all.