On a daily basis, I talk with podcasters about episode length, 30, 40 or 60 minutes? It's one of the biggest issues that actually slow the process for launching a podcast. Of course, how long a podcast is can be very subjective and really depends on a number of factors.
The type of show can be a strong factor in how long a podcast episode ends up being. If you're doing your own monologues then you may not need an hour to clearly convey your thoughts about a subject. Even if you did need an hour, it's debatable and hard truth to consider but are you that interesting? #REALTALK
Most people just can't hold an audience over a podcast for an entire hour and keep them engaged. Some can and if you're that special person then go for it but I recommend against it. One thing I advise my solo podcasters to do is to test a potential episode with two people. One that's a friend an one you don't know that well. Gauge their reaction and ask for feedback. Using this method you're more likely to get an honest answer about how interested they were which could help you in deciding the length.
A guest-based or interview-based podcast can run longer because you have a person that's telling a story, sharing insights or explaining a process. Once scripted you can estimate how long the podcast might be an make adjustments along the way to improve the episode flow. However, scripting a podcast is no guarantee on how long the podcast length should be. It's just a way of staying on track with your conversation. It's one of the things we teach clients about building out an episode.
The one thing often overlooked when developing a podcast, outside of the message for the show is, who does your podcast serve?
Determining who the podcast is for, outside of yourself can be the key to figuring out how long episodes should be. If the persona you develop for your podcast is a teacher, who works in an elementary school, then keep in mind how she starts her day. Does she have a long drive? What grade does she teach? How much time does she have to herself when she's not dealing with kids, grading papers, etc.
Once you have a clear understanding of who you're serving and how their day goes, then you have a better chance of getting the length of the podcast right for that audience. To continue with the teacher, does she teach in the city or in a rural community? Does she drive or take public transit? There are so many factors that can go into who you serve that it's worth building a listener persona so that when the epsidoe length is decided, you don't feel like you just guessed at it.
I wish it was that easy. The best answer is, it depends. However, I'm going to give you some guidelines based on some of the research that's been done and based on what I've seen work in the industry and with a number of my most successful clients.
25 minutes seems to be a sweet spot for interview based podcast. I've seen the 25-minute podcast succeed more often than any of the other lengths out there. It's just longer than the commute for the average person, but not so long they need two sessions to hear the rest of the content.
The same holds true for solo shows as well, but I've also witnessed the 10 to 15 minute show work really well for solo podcasters. If it's short enough listeners can Netflix style listen to more than one episode, which of course gives you the podcaster more downloads and more engagement for the podcast.
Bottom line is podcast length is all over the spectrum but you can use these guidelines and other factors to determine what's best for your show and most importantly the listener.
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