One of the most common questions we get asked is, “How long should my podcast episodes be?” and that is a totally fair question. Unfortunately, anyone who claims to have the definitive answer is 1000% lying to you.
“The truth is, the perfect episode length is whatever the perfect length for your content is.”
I know that may seem a bit vague and mysterious but I will explain.
Your episodes will find an audience no matter what and they will like your podcast because of its length. These days podcasting allows for such individual choice that people don’t just have to pick between short episodes and long episodes. They can have whatever they want and it turns out that we live in such a big world that lots of people have lots of different preferences.
But you still need to settle on a time so, while I will not claim to have the exact answer, I do have some points to consider when planning the length of your episodes.
How much time do you have to work on your podcast?
Keep in mind that for every episode you release you will have to include recording and editing time.
So a 1 hour podcast per week (if you are releasing weekly) is at least 1.5 hours for recording in terms of set up, preparation and the recording itself. Then depending on how heavily you need to edit your podcast it could be up to 2 hours of editing (1 hour for the actual run time of the episode and an hour extra for all the editing work).
If 3.5 hours of work a week may be too much, then consider that the work for a 30 minute episode would be around half that time.
How is your podcast consumed?
One train of thought suggests you should think about what your listeners are doing while listening to your podcast. Are they driving to work? Or working out at the gym? Or cooking or cleaning the house?
People will claim that you should consider things like work commute times for your listeners so they can finish your episode in that time but even that is silly.
Commute times vary from 20 minutes to several hours for millions of people so that concept doesn’t work.
Some people will need to finish a podcast episode in one sitting, whereas others can treat it like a book and stop and start as they choose. There is no hard and fast rule, and while millions of listeners may consume podcasts one way, millions of others will consume it the other way. At the time of writing this I am currently listening to two different story narrative style podcasts. One is 20 minute episodes and the other has episodes that range from 2-4 hours.
What is your subject matter?
If you are doing a solo podcast with no guests or co-hosts then maybe a shorter episode would work best for you, but that is again dependent on you. Are you comfortable talking for an hour repeatedly? If so then go for it! But maybe incorporate audio grabs, music, or segments to break it up and make it more engaging.
Podcasting’s diverse appeal means you shouldn’t be asking whether or not an idea will work, but rather ‘how can I make this work?’
Once again, ask yourself what length you can comfortably manage.
So what are we really saying?
Podcasting audiences are so varied that you will find someone to like an it no matter how long or short it is. That is the beauty of podcasting! The main things you should be asking are “What is the perfect length for me?”. What length can you maintain and be happy maintaining. You will find an audience no matter the length so make sure it works for you.