How long should your podcast episode be

How Long Should a Podcast Be?

With 50% of all US homes being a fan of podcasting, it is no wonder that more and more people are getting into this audio transmission of information. It seems as though more and more people are starting to listen to and get into podcasting with each passing day. In fact, 75% of the United States is now familiar with the term podcasting. That number was just 70% last year. 

If you are new to podcasting, the above question is probably one of the first you will ask yourself. However, the question should not really be how long should a podcast be but rather how long should my podcast be. This distinction is made because podcast lengths should really be looked at on a case by case basis. Unfortunately, there is no simple, one size fits all answer. However, throughout the course of this article, we will explore this topic and hopefully help you find the perfect episode length for your podcast.

What is the Average Podcast Length?

The podcast episode length can vary dramatically; therefore, it may be helpful to look at a few specific podcast examples and talk about the average length for podcast episodes.

5-Minute Podcasts

Some podcasts get across all the information they need to in just five minutes. In fact, this short time frame for episodes is actually a huge draw for on the go people who do not have much time to devote to listening to podcasts.

Example

An example is A Thousand Things to Talk About. This podcast is all about answering difficult questions. The host, Andrea Parrish spends some time talking about her research behind the questions, occasionally she will tell you what she thinks, but she will always let you think of your own answers – all in five-minute episodes. If you are ever worried that your podcast is not long enough, you should be comforted by the fact that some successful podcasts need only a few minutes.

Multiple Hour Podcasts

On the other end of the spectrum, some podcasts span hours and hours. The longest continuous podcast episode ever spanned 36 hours. Mike Russell of UK Podcasters gave up sleep to record continually for a day and a half. While this was a one-time endeavor, podcasts out there regularly record episodes that clock in at several hours long.

Example

One such example is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Nearly every episode of this podcast is longer than three hours. Some episodes even clock in at well over six hours. However, it has a huge following and is one of the most successful podcasts in existence.

How Long Are Most Podcasts?

Now that you have an idea of just how long and short podcasts can get, it is important to note that most podcasts find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. The average podcast episode length on a Buzzsprout review is 38 minutes. 38 minutes and 42 seconds to be exact according to research. Keep in mind that people who have hours and hours to dedicate to podcast listening tend to be in the minority, which is why a lot of podcasts are between 20 minutes and 30 minutes while some get up to 60 minutes.

Best length for Podcast

What Are You Trying to Say in Your Podcast?

Many new podcasters run into this trap where they have twenty minutes of golden material but still feel that the episode is too short, so they start to add fluff. If you have a wonderful 20 or 30-minute podcast episode, there is no need to make it longer simply because you feel like it must be longer to be right. Think about what you are trying to say and what you want your listeners to get out of the podcast episode. Once you have accomplished your goal, you are done. There is no need to try to adhere to artificial rules that you are setting out for yourself.

Don’t Run Out of Steam!

You also do not want to create a few hour-long podcast episodes for your show and then run out of content. For your podcasting endeavor to be successful, you need to share riveting content over many episodes. Some of the most popular shows in the industry have been running for years, and you want yours to be like that too!

How Long Does Your Audience Spend Commuting Every Day?

This is an important question to ask because the odds are that many of your listeners are listening to your podcast on their way to and from work. Audio and Podcast content works well for commuting in comparison to YouTube because it allows people to keep their eyes on the road or the way they are going while still allowing them to get new information. If you can find out what your audience’s average commute is, then that could influence how long you choose to make your podcast.

What is the Average Commute Throughout the Country?

The average commute in the United States is just over 26 minutes, but it can vary greatly from state to state. For instance, it is 33 minutes in New York but just 17 minutes in South Dakota.

If You Don’t Know, Ask Them!

Consider asking your audience what the average length of their commute is as well as how long they would like to spend listening to your content to get a better idea of how long your podcast specifically should be. Use information directly from your audience whenever possible to be sure you are serving your listeners as best you can.

Should All Your Podcast Episodes be the Same Length?

The short answer to this question is not necessarily. The episode length should match the content that you have to cover. However, with that being said, many people enjoy consistency. If the average length of your podcast episodes is 60 minutes, but then you suddenly create one that is two hours, it may throw off your listeners. People like to know how much time they need to dedicate to your podcast upfront. Therefore, drastically changing your episode length may be off-putting to your audience who consistently wants to listen to your show.

Do Not Change Podcast Length Arbitrarily

If you start with episodes that are 30 minutes, you should think twice before randomly switching to much longer three-hour episodes. Consider doing audience research first before you make a big shift like this. However, if you find that your audience is dying for more and would gladly listen to a longer podcast episode, there is no reason not to change your podcast structure.

Think About Structure

To be consistent with your episode length, consider laying out a structure for your episodes. This will help you to keep the length of your show consistent and make it so that you are not starting from scratch each time you start recording.

How Much Time Do You Have?

While much of the conversation about podcast length involves thinking about the audience, you should also think about yourself. Few people have the time and energy to devote hours and hours to podcasting each week consistently. You do not need to feel bad if you are not one of those people; you just need to be honest with yourself and with your listeners. Making one fantastic podcast episode every two weeks is much better than throwing together a lackluster show every week.

Podcasting is More than Just Recording: Don’t Forget About Editing!

Podcasting is a lot of work. Even if you really like making podcasts, there is no denying that producing a show is extremely time-consuming. Even short podcasts can take several hours to put together when you factor in editing, adding sound effects, and audio mixing after recording. For some shows, editing can take even longer than recording the show in the first place. You also cannot forget that it takes time to share your podcasts on social media and promote them to an email address list.

Budget Your Time Wisely

You must consider all these components of producing a show when considering how much time you have to devote to podcasting. If you do not give yourself enough time for audio editing after recording, then you will likely end up with a podcast that is not of the right quality for your show.

Ask for Help if You Can

You may be able to make this easier for yourself by hiring a third party or getting a co-host involved in the process. Getting help is a great way to reduce the burden on yourself. However, not every person has the resources to use help from others. If you are committed to your podcast show and want to make each episode the best you can, getting help may be the right move.

How Often Do You Share Your Work?

You may think that getting more content out in the world is always better; however, quality is usually better than quantity. Additionally, many of your listeners may simply not have time to keep up with three episodes per week. If you put out one longer hour-long episode every other week that gets 500 hundred downloads, that is much better than sharing three episodes a week that only get 50 downloads each.

Can Your Topic Help you Find Your Publishing Schedule?

However, you should also think about what kind of publishing schedule your topic lends itself to. For example, it makes a lot of sense that daily news shows are published every day, while the year in review shows are published yearly. Before you choose your schedule, consider both how much time your audience has to listen and what your topic requires.

Conclusion

No one right length will lead to the best podcast. Podcasting is not an exact science. However, it would be best if you kept in mind the answers to the above questions when thinking about how long should your podcast be. Think about how long your listeners have to listen to your podcasts and their average commute time, as well as how much content and time you have. Once you figure all these things out, it will help you know how to create the best podcast length that your audience will want to listen to consistently, and that allows you to craft your best content continually.

Final Takeaway

If you only get one thing out of this discussion, it should be that you should not make your content fit an arbitrary length. Instead, your podcast’s length should always reflect the quality content you have and that your audience will want to listen to. There is no one right way to make a podcast. You just need to make a show that your listeners will like and will want to listen to. The best podcast is one that serves your audience with episodes that keep them coming back for more.

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