At the end of the day, grabbing hold of your audience’s attention is key to a successful branded podcast.
Finding the right podcast length is one of the key elements for holding a listener’s interest and also increasing audience retention, user interactions, and overall engagement.
But how do you determine how long your podcast should be?
Finding the right podcast length for your brand
As shown in CoHost’s State of Branded Podcasts report, the most popular length for branded podcasts is 21-30 minutes, followed by 41-50 minutes.
But even with this knowledge, the length of your show should be dictated by elements like:
- The format of your show
- The type of content you’re looking to produce
- The goal of your podcast
- Who your target audience is
- What resources you have access to
If you’re aiming for a deep dive into a particular topic, you’ll need to create longer episodes. And if you’re looking to provide listeners with some quick tips or updates, shorter episodes work fine.
Let’s dive in and explore the different ways podcast length impacts listener retention.
1. Audience retention
Think about who your target audience is and what their preferences are. Are they busy professionals who want to listen to something short and snappy during their commute, or are they avid listeners who don't mind spending several hours on a single episode?
Shorter podcast episodes are more likely to maintain audience attention and retention. Listeners with limited time are more inclined to commit to shorter episodes, increasing the chances of them listening to the entire episode.
This can result in higher completion rates and better retention metrics. Daily Breath by Deepak Chopra features short 8-10-minute episodes that allow you to go inwards and pause the hectic world around you. People tune in to create a mindful moment in their daily routine.
I can’t scientifically prove this, but I believe there’s also a boost of serotonin you get and a feeling of accomplishment when you finish an episode. When your show is shorter, you get to give audiences that feeling more often.
Longer episodes might lead to a drop in retention if listeners find it challenging to allocate a large chunk of time. However, longer episodes can be successful if the content remains engaging and valuable throughout, catering to an audience willing to invest more time.
Serial, one of the most popular podcasts of all time, averages approximately 50 minutes per episode. The Tim Ferriss Show averages around 80 minutes per episode. So, it’s possible to become successful with a longer show – it just depends on your audience.
As a general rule when it comes to length, it’s good to consider:
- Mini podcasts (5-10 minutes) are best employed with news roundups and bite-sized educational content;
- Shorter or mid-length (20-40 minutes) podcasts are great for business interviews, entertainment news, or corporate shows;
- Long podcasts (60+ minutes) are great for in-depth interviews.
2. User interactions
Understanding how episode length correlates with user interaction can help podcast creators strike the right balance and foster meaningful connections with their listeners.
Shorter episodes encourage immediate interactions.
Listeners are more likely to engage in discussions, share on social media, and leave reviews or comments when the content is easily digestible and fits into their schedule.
Longer episodes can foster deeper engagement.
Listeners who invest a significant amount of time in a podcast episode might be more motivated to join discussions, share their thoughts, and provide detailed feedback. However, these interactions might occur less frequently due to the time commitment required.
3. Overall engagement
Brands strive to forge connections that resonate and engage. But how does the length of a podcast episode affect the overall engagement of listeners?
The key lies in understanding the preferences, expectations, and behaviors of different audience segments.
Shorter podcast episodes can generate a higher volume of engagement actions, such as likes, shares, and comments, due to their convenience and accessibility. They appeal to a broader audience, including those seeking quick information or entertainment.
Longer podcast episodes can foster a strong connection with a dedicated audience. Engaged listeners who appreciate in-depth discussions and insights might be more likely to share, discuss, and actively participate in the podcast community.
4. Content quality and structure
Podcast length is more than a matter of minutes; it's a framework that shapes content quality and structure.
Whether condensing a message or story into a shorter episode or unfolding a multifaceted exploration in a longer one, both present unique opportunities and challenges for brands.
Crafting concise and focused content for shorter episodes can enhance content quality. The challenge lies in delivering valuable information within a limited timeframe.
The host will have to be skilled in pulling valuable information from their guests in a timely manner and if it’s a solo show, they’ll have to be efficient in getting their point across quickly.
Longer episodes allow for a more comprehensive exploration of topics, potentially increasing content quality.
Creators have the opportunity to provide deeper insights, analysis, and storytelling.
Shows like The Daily by The New York Times may clock in around 20 minutes. Shows similar to Joe Rogan’s The Joe Rogan Experience, on the other hand, may be well over two hours (with an average of 11 million listeners per episode!).
The Daily allows listeners to get a quick overview of the news of the day in a digestible manner whereas Joe Rogan’s long-form structure allows his listeners to get a deep understanding of the topic at hand – everything from meditation to politics, psychedelics, and ecological preservation.
When you think about the structure of your podcast, shorter and longer podcasts have different benefits:
Benefits of shorter podcasts:
- Increased productivity: When you produce shorter podcasts, you can publish more every week.
- More subscribers: Shorter podcasts usually have more listeners. This is because, given everyone’s time constraints, most people would rather listen to a shorter podcast than a longer one.
- Time-saving: Producing shorter podcasts takes less time, and you get more time to deal with work/personal activities.
- Resource management: If you’re renting a studio space or equipment for recording, creating shorter podcasts can save you time and money.
Benefits of longer podcasts:
- Become an authority in your niche: Want to establish yourself as an authority in a specific niche or genre? Longer podcast episodes usually achieve this result.
- Cover topics more thoroughly: If you’ve excellent storytelling skills, longer podcast episodes allow you to discuss a subject thoroughly.
- Increased subscription: Longer podcasts can grow your subscriber lists, especially if you use the conversational, interview, or panel podcast style. People like longer podcasts when several people are involved in the discussion.
- Great for commutes: Commutes can be boring. But longer podcasts can be the perfect companions. 42% of audiences listen to podcasts most frequently during their commute – giving some much-needed entertainment for the drive.
5. Experimentation and adaptation
The podcast landscape rewards those who dare to experiment, innovate, and adapt.
A key factor in this creative endeavor is the choice between shorter and longer episodes, each of which offers distinct pathways for exploration and engagement.
Shorter episodes present a nimble approach, allowing creators to jump between topics and styles, whereas longer episodes provide a stage for deeper connections and immersive storytelling.
Shorter episodes enable creators to experiment with different topics, formats, and styles more frequently. This experimentation can attract a diverse audience and keep content fresh.
Longer episodes suit podcasts that require detailed explanations, interviews, or storytelling. Creators can dive deep into subjects that resonate with their target audience, building loyalty and engagement over time.
Which podcast length is right for you?
Ultimately, the ideal podcast episode length depends on your content, audience preferences, and podcast goals.
Regularly monitoring engagement metrics, seeking feedback from listeners, and staying attuned to industry trends can help you make informed decisions about episode length to maximize audience retention, user interactions, and overall engagement.
The best way to determine which length is best for you is to start by releasing episodes of varying lengths and monitoring listener engagement.
Don't be afraid to experiment with different lengths and see what works best for your audience. Look at your download and retention rates to see which episodes perform best.
Whether you choose to go short and sweet for maximum digestibility, or long and in-depth for those juicy discussions, there's no doubt that you can create a loyal following of engaged listeners.
By keeping your content fresh and engaging, you'll be well on your way to podcasting success. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to get in touch with the team at CoHost.