How Long Is The Perfect Podcast?

You might as well ask how long a piece of string is! It’s a question asked, yet again, by the ever-interesting mind of Dave Slusher. While listening to Sam Whitmore’s Tech Media This Week, the subject of the correct length of a podcast arose (as an aside, now Slusher’s mentioned the Tech Media cast, I’m away to have a listen to it). Whitmore’s answer was ten minutes - but this is a rather simplistic answer, becasue for every podcast I think there’s an ideal length. It’s one of the most fluid concepts out there. How can you measure the length of something that is so amorphus?

Slusher illustreated this with a list of the length of podcasts on his regular MP3 player, and a quick look on my PSP Podcast client shows I have just as wide a range of length; Wait Wait Don’t Tell me hits 48 minutes every week, while Today in Music History manages around four minutes per show.

But in an attempt to drive the conversation forward, I’m going to throw in two factors that help decide the length. The most obvious one is the amount of time that the podcaster has. Allowing for a basic rule of thumb that the amount of preparation time is equal to the length of show, every podcaster should look at the amount of time they will consistently have. Back when TPN Rock was a thirty minute once a week show (ahhh the memories) I was having almost daily emails asking for more. The solution was TPN Rock Again, where I would play a single track that had featured on a previous show - after all I could see very few people were going beyond the history of the RSS Feed so this was fresh content to many people. I had the time to do it, and it suited the listeners demands as well.

Because that’s the second factor; what works for the listener - remember podcasting is very much a two-way street between the creator and the consumer. Certainly the more ‘mainstream style’ podcast shows have a broader reach, making the goal of satisfactionall round that little bit harder, but taking on-baord the feedback and looking at the niche space you are in may provide sopme helpful clues.

This is what I did jsut over a year ago when looking to launch a Sony Playstation Portable Podcast (The PSP Show). What podcasts were already available? What was the target audience? What sort of show would fit around their needs, that I would still find exciting to produce? The end result of all that was a weekly show, where the length was around 10-12 minutes per show, providing a quick hit of PSP news, some intersting ideas and features, plus a review of the latest PSP games. It’s proved a winning solution, and i take pride that close to half of the listeners to the show listen on their PSP’s RSS Client.

I do think there is an answer to the question, but much like Deep Thought vs The Earth, the fun is working out what exactly the question is! Every podcast has a length that will have a best fit answer that suits the respective host and audience. The fact that this will be different for every podcast is one of the reasons why this new media space is so exciting.


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