The Download on Podcasts: Podcast completion rate — it’s still about length

DOWNLOAD ON PODCASTS logo 03 with podcastone BIG LOGO canvas

The Download on Podcasts is a regular feature sponsored by PodcastOne.

One of the most interesting, revealing, and uplifting results of The Infinite Dial consumer survey revealed last week by Edison Research and Triton Digital is the podcast completion metric. To the surprise of many in the industry, 40% of listeners stick through entire podcast episodes, and another 45% listen to “most” of their shows. So, 85% of podcast listeners hear pre-roll and mid-roll advertisements (if they don’t skip through them), and nearly half of those people could hear a post-roll too.


infinite dial 2017 PODCASTING listening through 638w

Obviously good news for the ad-driven podcast economy. Also, it must be mentioned, good for Edison/Triton to ask the question, cutting through a bit of black-box mystery which shrouds consumption data across podcast networks.

Individual podcast platforms, hosts, and podcatch apps do collect detailed analytics of how people listen. That’s fine for network-specific storytelling to advertisers, but having network-agnostic data across the U.S. listening population brings authority to the information like nothing else.

Specific network measurement deepen the story of completion rates, resulting in a fuller picture of how podcast producers can encourage listeners to stick with the program. In this week’s edition of Hot Pod, Nick Quah’s newsletter, there are pointers to two networks which emphasize that podcast length is an  important predictor of how sticky the shows are.

First, Nicholas DePrey, Analytics Manager at NPR, furnished a graphic illustrating how long length encourages drop-off:

podcast completion NPR Nick DePrey


Second, an on-demand audio app called th60db corroborated that reality from its measurements:


podcast completion the60db



Stickiness and length have been tied together in Steve Goldstein’s mind since he founded Amplifi Media. IN a RAIN News guest column from 2015, Goldstein gathers other datasets: “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.”

Of course, some shows thrive in long form, with their loyal fans probably wishing they were longer. That level of success is usually hard-won. Steve Goldstein’s recommendation: “In a time-starved world, the empirical evidence is overwhelming; the longer the podcast, the less chance there is for completion.”

Steve Goldstein


  1. Yet Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History just set a record for 1 million downloads in 24 hours. His episode is SIX HOURS long. I like Valerie Geller’s quote on this, “There is no such thing as too long, only too boring.”

  2. If a podcaster cannot hold an audience for the length of his or her podcast it’s likely that the content isn’t that compelling. My personal show is 70 minutes, my audience hangs with me to the end. It’s about the content and always has been. No different than any other medium. How does Howard Stern hold his audience, simple compelling content. Total hogwash that short shows are better.

Comments are closed.