How Long Should my Podcast be?

Remember in high school when a teacher assigned you a paper and the first question was always, “how long does it have to be?” The most frustrating answer to a student looking to do the minimum amount of work was, “as long as it needs to be.” This is actually a good answer though. See, “how long” is the wrong target. A page number doesn’t make a good paper; fulfilling the requirements does. In other words: content is more important than length.

The same exact thing is true for podcasts.

Length doesn’t matter that much

A common question I get from my students and coaching clients is the same teachers get when they assign papers: “how long should my podcast be?”

If you want some canned, textbook answer, the average commute is 25 minutes, and that’s usually when people listen to podcasts. But that doesn’t matter. Here’s why.

Imagine you have a solo show. You’ve scripted your topic so you make evert point, exactly how you want to make them. And it comes in at 12 minutes. Are you going to vamp for another 13 minutes just to hit that 25 minute mark? I’d guess, “no.”

Similarly, let’s say you’re having a great interview with a guest. They’re telling stories to drive home their points, all of which are pieces of actionable advice for your listeners. Are you running a timer and cutting them off right at the 25 minute mark? Again, I’d guess no.

In both cases, you’re taking good content and making it worse because of some arbitrary length requirement.

If Your Listeners Like the Content, They’ll Stick Around

On that same token, if your content is good, listeners won’t completely abandon an episode because they get out of their car, or finish mowing the lawn.

If they can’t keep listening at that moment, they’ll stop and pick it up later. The beauty of podcasts is they stay on your phone until you delete them.

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Some podcasts I listen to are over 2 hours long. I usually don’t have that time as a dad with 2 kids. So I listen in segments.

Not All Content is Created Equal

Your goal as a podcaster is focus on good content. One hour of rambling isn’t the same as one hour of structure or entertaining conversation.

If you’re worried people will just see the time and skip it, optimize. Make sure your title and description are good enough for people to press play. That usually means an enticing headline1 to get their attention. Sell them why they should listen with the description.

Once a listener hits play, you have 30-60 seconds to hook them. I’ve been doing a CTA right off the bat, but I’m changing that to my summary with big takeaways. My CTA will still be in the first 2 minutes but I want to hook the listener first. You can do the same with a summary, what to listen for, or a cold open with the guest’s best quote.

Then you need to deliver on your promise. Don’t lie just to get listeners…that’s a sure way to erode trust.

A Few Extra Tips

  • If you show fits the mold, you could always add chapter markers. For apps that support them2, you can allow listeners to skip the segments they don’t care for, but still engage with the content they’re interested in.
  • Pay attention to analytics. They are much better today than even 2 years ago. You can see where listeners start listening, and where they drop off.
  • Talk to your audience! If they don’t like something you’re trying, encourage them to let you know. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is how we grow with any content we create.

Favor Content over Length

When I taught college classes, if a student turned in a paper with the minimum recommended 2 pages, but the content didn’t address the assigned topic, they failed. But if a student went a couple of paragraphs short and still managed to hit my requirements, they got a good grade.

As a podcaster, you should worry more about creating good content than the number of minutes per episode. Your listeners definitely do.

  1. “Why Your Business is at Risk by not being on TikTok” is much better than “How to Use TikTok,” for example.
  2. Which is most at this point

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