Ana from The Podcasting Space in Texas asks about podcast runtime length. Is there such a thing as too short? Too long? Does it matter? What’s the best runtime?

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Episode Transcript

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Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. And welcome to episode 85 of podcasting sucks. I’m me. You’re you. And today we’re going to hear from my friend, Anna, at the podcast space in Texas, that is up next. I decided to start allowing people to submit questions through Instagram. I got some feedback from a few of you that was essentially, Hey, some of us don’t want to use pot inbox for whatever reason. There were a few reasons, but I don’t need to get into that. The point is that some of you want to be able to submit questions without using your voice, because many of you, as I learned in this feedback are not yet podcasters. You haven’t made that commitment yet. And so where I was a little dismissive in my last episode, and I said, you’re all podcasters. You shouldn’t be afraid of using your voice. I guess that that’s not true in some cases. And I wasn’t being sensitive to that. So now if you’d like once a day, I will create an Instagram story where I’ll put a sticker in there so that you can ask a question via text and all except questions that way as well. For those of you who are inclined to leave messages with your voice, please continue to use pod inbox.com. I like supporting that service and I like using it. And if you don’t mind, it would be great. If you could use that as is the case for this entire month, this podcast is brought to you by audio graph.io. If you’d watch my social channels, you see that I’m using that tool almost every day to promote my podcast and help keep my current listeners engaged throughout the week. Let’s get to Anna’s question, which is this, what is the minimum size of a podcast episode? Now I reached out to Anna for clarification. Do you mean size as in megabytes? Cause you could make it bigger or smaller based on how you encoded the MP3. And she said, runtime, well actually she said length. I’m saying runtime. This is a question I get from a lot of beginner podcasters. And prior to this podcast going public, I have already answered this question. However, that was prior to this podcast going public. So I’m going to answer it again. Most beginner podcasters make the assumption that there is a span of time for a podcast that is the defacto best runtime. This isn’t true. There was a study done. I want to say by Nielsen or by Edison, I will try to find it and link it in the show notes that revealed something along the lines of the most common runtime being. I want to say it was 30 minutes. Some people decided to interpret that as 30 minutes is the most popular runtime. Ergo 30 minutes is the best runtime. That’s not true. 10 years ago. This number probably would have been 45 minutes. When I started podcasting 45 minutes to an hour was the arbitrary runtime that I thought a potty cast needed to be to meet the expectations of those listening to them. The truth is your listeners go by the expectations you set for them in a myriad of ways, but specific to this, you tell them it’s going to be X minutes long, and then you deliver on it being X minutes, as long as you’ve promised and they will be happy. Podcasts do not need to be a certain runtime to make people happy. There is no fixed standardized runtime throughout the podcasting, at least not yet. And I don’t see there ever being one. So then if you’re setting the expectation, what expectations should you set? Is there a minimum runtime that you should set as an expectation and in the opposite direction, is there a maximum runtime? Well, there are podcasts that run for as short as three minutes. Those are usually news update podcasts. For example, in the podcasting space, there’s pod news, which you can find at podnews.net, that podcast with some exceptions, depending on how busy the day is, or maybe there’s some kind of special event going on that requires extra coverage. That podcast is generally around three minutes long. And for that format, three minutes seems to work. You can search for pod news in your podcast player to get a sense of what three minutes feels like and what can be condensed into those three minutes on the other end of the spectrum on the longer runtime end of the spectrum, there’s a show like hardcore history by Dan Carlin. Those episodes are sometimes three hours, four hours long. And those three to four hour long episodes are actually cut up into multiple episodes. So in total, one topic could encompass a series of episodes and each episode itself is three hours long. If you go and listen to an episode of hardcore history, which I believe you can find it, hardcore history.com, you can get a sense of what’s being fit into that much time. And that’s a very popular show for the right audience. Tanner. You’re not really answering the question here. Well, there isn’t really an answer to the question in my personal opinion, the way that I approach this, when clients ask me, this is the standard advice I give: your podcast should be as long as it needs to be and no longer and no shorter. Do not rush through your quality content in order to fit within a certain timeframe. On the other hand, do not fluff your content up with a bunch of stuff, that’s not really relevant, not entertaining, not endearing and not informational, not useful to the listeners in order to meet an arbitrary length of time. So don’t speed through what could be a 60 minute podcast to make it 45, because you feel like that’s important, and so you speed through it at the expense of the quality of the product that you’re delivering. On the other hand, at 30 minutes, don’t look at your watch and say, “Oh no, we have to go for 15 more minutes to hit time.” You don’t want to fill an episode with fluff and you don’t want to detract from the quality of an episode by trying to rush through it. Now that said, you still need to commit to a standard runtime. You set the standard, you set that expectation, but you have to decide. So what should you decide? Shorter podcasts do seem to be becoming more popular. That doesn’t mean best. It means most common. There are podcasts. Like I said, there are three minutes long. There are podcasts that are 20 minutes long. I think right now between 20 and 30 minutes seems to be where most podcasters are starting to start. I like that runtime. Let me tell you why. As a first-time podcaster, it’s manageable. My podcast, for example, falls between 20 and 30 minutes. On most days, you may, that I’m not taking my own advice here. My podcast can range from being five minutes long to being 30 minutes long. That is not something I suggest most people do, but rules are meant to be broken. And by the way, this isn’t a rule. So lack of rules in this case are intended to be broken. But 20 to 30 minutes is manageable for someone who’s never done this. I also make the suggestion that when you first start podcasting, not to start with an episode every week, but instead to start with an episode every other week. And when I give that advice, it goes something like it is easier to find out that a once every other week schedule can be added to so that you’re giving your audience more than you promised. It’s easier to make that adjustment in the eyes of the audience anyway, your relationship with them than it is to do the opposite. Oh, I’ve promised an episode every week, but after doing this for a while, I can only do it once every other week. The audience won’t be as friendly about that. And we want to exceed expectations, not fall short of them, which is why it’s important to understand that you set those expectations. Tanner, you’re still not giving us a runtime here that we should shoot for. Like I said, there’s not really an answer for this. And I want to be very careful about giving you a direct answer because you’ll say, well, that’s what Tanner said. So that’s what we’re going to do. When you go to determine your podcast, know that there is no such thing as a podcast, which is too short. Likewise, there is no such thing as a podcast, which is too long with the caveat that you are not compromising value or quality. So now that you have that understanding, you know that the runtime doesn’t matter, that it can’t be too short, that it can’t be too long, but you want it to be a runtime that matches with your ability to fill that runtime. You don’t want to underfill it. You don’t want to overfill it. I think I’ve conveyed that to death at this point, but instead you want to fill it a good way to figure this out is to have a couple of dry runs. And by that, I mean, sit down with your co-host, sit down with a mock guest and have an interview, have a discussion, have a monologue. If that’s your thing and see how long it naturally goes, do a few of those and take the average and figure out what your average runtime was. You spoke for 30 minutes with relative ease without really stretching. And then the next time you spoke for 50, and then the next time you spoke for 40. And so we’ll say the average of that is 40 and maybe 40 is the runtime you should aim for. But notice you’re not aiming for 40 minutes because 40 minutes is a magical number. Rather you’re aiming for 40 minutes because 40 minutes seems to be pretty easy for you to fill. Then you want to listen to those mock episodes and kind of like do that thing that football coaches do with their players. Watch your tapes, listen to your tapes in this case and look for areas of improvement. Is this a little fluffy? Am I being awkward because I’m trying to make it go longer. Am I having a lot of awkward silences? Am I relying too much on inside jokes? Am I finding myself getting off the topic and talking about things that are not exactly related to the reason people might be showing up to listen to this and learn to become conscious of those things after three mock and some time listening to what you’ve produced, you will have a better idea of what runtime is a natural fit for you. And then when you make your podcast trailer, you can set an expectation in that trailer that your runtime will be around 25 to 30 minutes per episode, because that’s where your mock episodes had your runtime clocking in at. This is something that I think is really hard for new podcasters to get their head around. Because essentially what I am saying is there’s no right answer. There are some guidelines you make the rules, your runtime does not determine your success. Your runtime doesn’t determine whether or not anyone will like your podcast. Your runtime doesn’t determine anything except your runtime. What more so determines your success aside from your ability to market. Well, which is important, but we won’t go into that in this episode. It’s more so your ability to be consistent, your ability to produce good content and your ability to meet the expectations you have promised to your listenership, because nothing will strengthen your relationship with your audience more than delivering on the promises you’ve made to them. So, Anna, I hope this was useful. Let’s review. There’s no such thing as a podcast, which is too short. There’s no such thing as a podcast, which is too long. There is such a thing as a podcast, which has made too long because the podcaster is filling that podcast episode with fluff. Fluff does not respect the listeners. Time. Fluff is not why people show up. There’s also such a thing as a podcast, which is too short, it gets cut off before you get to the good stuff. You don’t want to be a podcaster. Who’s so concerned about hitting five minutes or 10 minutes that you Rob quality and value from the audience by rushing through too quickly or stopping before you get to, like I said, the good stuff you want to be very aware of the fact that you are setting expectations, expectations are a promise. It’s your job to deliver on any promise. You make, prioritize yourself, your own ability to keep up your own mental health, all that stuff, prioritize all of that stuff above some arbitrary notion of what you think your audience, which does not yet exist, wants and expects from you. You make the rules and Anna, thank you for the question. I appreciate it. I hope that answer was helpful. And that is all I have for you today. If I’ve been helpful, either in this episode or any episode that you’ve listened to, and you’d like to show your appreciation, you can buy me a beer by going to buy me a coffee.com forward slash Tanner helps. There’s a link in the description for you to do that. I would appreciate it. I truly do spend all of that money on beer. You’re supporting my habit and in Denver, Colorado, where there’s all kinds of delicious craft beer, it’s a great habit and an expensive one. I’d like to thank you for spending your morning with me today. I wish you a very happy Tuesday and until next time take care