Steve Goldstein: How Long Should Your Podcast Be?

Steve Goldstein was EVP of Saga Communications for nearly three decades. He left Saga in March to start Amplifi, a new podcast company. This column was originally published on Blogstein, the Amplifi blog.

steve goldstein press march 2015 canvas

There is a common perception among podcast hosts that because people have “leaned forward” and gone through the process of selecting their podcast that listeners are automatically fans and thus the hosts can indulge the audience with impunity.

Often this means elongated segments, meandering stories, long interviews and banal content – “wow that’s a really nice shirt you are wearing.”

In a time-starved world and an ever increasing excess of content clamoring for attention, it does not appear that even after selecting to listen to a podcast that many listeners will sit through content that does not connect and make “eye-contact.”

Recent analysis of listening habits from the NPR One app reveals that a mere 18 words into a segment, people are deciding whether they will continue listening. Another recent and equally compelling set of data from one of the podcast aggregators, shows an attrition rate of 40% in the first 7 minutes. Longer podcasts should expect that 2/3rds of the audience is gone sometime between 20 and 60 minutes.

This suggests that audience consumption patterns among podcast listeners may not be so different than other forms of audio.

Nielsen PPM data has long indicated that traditional radio time spent listening averages about 10 minutes to one item or one station. Pretty scary, but the car radio push-button has always been a factor in the tyranny of developing and holding an audience.

Podcasting has its own set of challenges with start, stop and delete buttons.

Of course there are some wonderful podcasts of long length – 45 to 60 minutes – that people make it all the way through, but on average, it is safe to say the trend is to shorter. This bite-size tendency may be societal, but it also should take into account factors including commute times. The average U.S. commute is 25 minutes and anecdotally, many people report that they will stick with a single podcast for the duration of a drive.

So, how long should your podcast be? It’s hard to definitely say, but in a time-starved world, the empirical evidence is overwhelming; the longer the podcast, the less chance there is for completion.

I will follow up with proven tactics and suggestions to improve listener retention.


Steve Goldstein

One Comment

  1. Man to have that answer would be the key to the kingdom. I think it’s at that point where you have to like the person, know the topic, and then you ultimately have the time and patience to want to listen. I can listen to Greg Proops’ Smartest Man in the World podcast for 9 hours because I think he’s funny and intelligent. But a podcast like Doug Benson’s who I find as funny as Greg (not as intellegent but still funny) is a real struggle. Both podcasts sit at or around the 90 minute mark on average. I’d probably listen to Doug more if he had a 30 minute podcast.

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