One of the first things that you have to decide when starting your own podcast is the length of the episodes. In some cases, you might already have your own podcast, but you are looking to change some aspects of it to further improve it, such as the length. After all, length certainly plays a vital part in creating a compelling podcast. Deciding on the length of your episodes can seem arbitrary though, so we are going to break down everything that you should think about when deciding on the length of your podcast episodes.
To make it simple, we are going to break it down into "who, what, when, where, and how," so that you are able to directly apply this approach to your own podcast. Given that all podcasts are different, we want to give you a set of questions and advice that you can apply to your podcast to determine the best length for you instead of giving you blanket statements about podcast length.
Who is your audience?
Consider your audience. You may anticipate having a wider audience or you may anticipate having a very specific audience if you are a niche podcast. With a wider audience, you may have more freedom to choose what length is best. However, with a specific audience, you can think about the lifestyle of your audience and what kind of length works for that lifestyle. For example, if your podcast topic is aimed at a busy group of people, such as working moms, you might consider making the length of your podcast 30 minutes or less as they have less time to devote to listening to a podcast. On the other hand, your podcast topic might be aimed at retired people who have significantly more free time, so 1 hour or more could be a more suitable length in this case.
Whether you already have an audience or you are going to be building an audience, consider them in your decision. Do some research into demographics, preferences, lifestyle choices, etc. and that can be a great way to help guide the length of your podcast.
What is your topic?
Think about the topic of your podcast. Your topic is also a great guide for your episode length. Does the subject matter take a few hours to explain and get through? Or, does it take 30 minutes or less? If you have an educational podcast, you might consider making your podcast episodes 2-3 hours long that are well-segmented and extremely thorough. Or, you may decide to break down each overall episode topic into sub-topics to make 1 hour episodes instead that are more digestible. Your podcast topic might be for entertainment or inspiration purposes, so in these cases it likely takes much less time to get through everything you want to talk about. This could be a case where 45 minutes or less would be a good length. You know your topic best, so think about how much time it takes to talk about your topic as well as how digestible the topic is.
When are you posting?
How often are you going to post podcast episodes? You may post multiple times a week, once a week, once a month, or some other frequency that works for you. Generally speaking, if you post more frequently, you likely should have shorter episodes, and if you post less frequently, the episodes should be longer. You can consider 15-20 minute episodes if you post multiple times per week, 45 minutes or an hour if you post once per week, or 2-3 hour episodes if you post once per month. You don't want to overload your listeners with too many episodes in a small amount of time, but you also don't want your listeners waiting forever for a new episode. You especially don't want to overload your audience with too many long episodes in a short time frame and you don't want to make your listeners wait a long time for a super short episode. So, find the balance between frequency and length that works for you.
Where does your audience listen?
Consider where your audience is listening to your podcast. Your listeners may listen at home, in the car, at work, while exercising, while walking, while traveling, or while on public transportation. All of these locations have different mental limitations that are important to factor into your podcast length. For example, if your audience listens at work, they likely are unable to listen intently for very long whereas they would have much more mental freedom while listening at home or in the car.
While some people recommend making your podcast the length of the average person's commute, which tends to be about 25 minutes, this is not something that you should allow to control your podcast length. If you are considering a shorter podcast length, then thinking about making the length of your podcast about the average commute time might be a great way to set a length. However, if the nature of your podcast requires longer episodes, don't let the average commute time concern you. After all, if someone loves your podcast, they will likely stop and resume your podcast when need be anyway.
How is your podcast presented?
Think about how you present your podcast. How is it segmented? How many different segments do you want to include in an episode? Is all of the information that you want to include equally interesting? What is your presentation of the material like? Are you full of energy for several hours? Or, can you only maintain high energy for 30 minutes? You need to strike a balance between the amount of interesting content and the length of time that you can be a high energy presenter. If you run out of interesting content, but are still full of energy, then the podcast will fall flat because of the content. If you run out of energy, but still have interesting information, your podcast will also fall flat. So, ensure that you are making your podcast episodes the optimal length so that you have both high energy and interesting information for the duration of the episodes.
Generally speaking, consider making your podcast episodes somewhere between 15 minutes and 3 hours. Less than 15 minutes can seem really short and more than 3 hours may just be too long. Of course, use your judgment and this approach to help select the perfect time. Whatever you do, ensure you are selecting an amount of time that seems optimally engaging for your audience. And, maybe consider getting in the habit of putting your most important content at the beginning of your podcast to ensure you keep your listeners throughout the duration of the episodes.
With any decisions about your podcast, you should always be considering your audience. In addition, you should always think about what works for you and what you would prefer if you were the listener. These two considerations should give you a great guide to what length is best. And, if you decide on a length and it seems like it isn't working how you wanted, change it! You have total control over your podcast, so feel free to make adjustments as you start to see what works best for you and your audience. Happy podcasting!
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