How Long Has This Been Going On?
November 19, 2015
The optimal length for a podcast is...
Now, see, I can tell you that the numbers I've heard from the people who HAVE done some research vary, but tend to land in the 20-40 minute range. Shorter is better, they say, citing figures from apps that show people clicking away or stopping in that range if they haven't ditched a segment in a few seconds (see previous column about getting to the point).
And then I can tell you that my own network has proof that longer shows can work. I'm not revealing anything secret by noting that the Nerdist Podcast tends to run just over an hour (fun fact: It's that length because Chris recorded a lot of the early episodes on a CD-R recorder, and CD-Rs could only hold that much), and "You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes" can run way past the two hour mark, and "The Indoor Kids" is around an hour, and those shows all do huge download numbers. Marc Maron goes long, too. And Adam Carolla and "This Week in Tech" do an hour and a half to two, easy.
Which is to say, we don't know. But the common thread among those longer shows is that they've been around for a long time. They built goodwill before there were a zillion shows out there. If they launched now, would they be that long? Maybe, probably, but they were all also hosted by known quantities with followings. If you're not famous or with a big fan base already, the jury's still out on how long you should go.
With that in mind, my advice -- largely unscientific, but as an Official Expert (Caution: Nobody's Really An Expert), I'd say start shorter. A half-hour's plenty. And if you find you absolutely NEED more time, then and only then should you stretch it out. You can also split shows into multiple episodes. It makes more sense to do that than to test your listeners' patience, or make people look at your iTunes page, see two-hour episodes, and decide, hell, I don't have time for that.
Besides, brevity is the soul of wit. And that's the last time I quote "Hamlet."