The duration of a podcast is a touchy subject among many legacy podcasters.  Some producers run hour and longer podcasts with pride.  Most are confident that their "fans" are on board for the full ride. Indeed some are.  

However, producers coming from commercial and non-commercial radio tend to be more wary of program length and watch the clock more closely. This is often the result of years of experience with PPM meters and viewing other listening metrics, which for broadcasters, means recognition of the tyranny of radio buttons and for podcasters the stop and delete buttons.  

Radio broadcasters know the average time spent listening per occasion to a station is 10 minutes. TV producers run short segments during news broadcasts.  The average length of a YouTube video is 4 minutes 20 seconds.  People graze, lose attention and change content sources.  

Holding attention is ever more challenging even when people are self-selecting a topic of interest as they do with podcasts.  

My daughter listens to a great food podcast and when her commute is done, so is her time with the podcast.

Many years of radio programming has conditioned me to urge efficient content packaging - regardless of length - and always respectful of self indulgence.  

The item below from RAIN NEWS Chief Brad Hill includes a quote from me - thanks Brad -  but more significantly it focuses on some of the science of podcast length. The recently released Infinite Dial study, which is self-reported data, indicates high completion rates for podcasts. That's great news and indeed it is likely that podcasts have longer "time-spent" than most audio media.  It is also true, however, that not all podcasts are created equal. NPR, which includes some of the best crafted podcasts in the business has evidence to show how tough it really is to engage and hold an audience for a long period of time.  

My advice will always be; go on as long as you need, then stop.  And, if you don't edit, the audience will do it for you.  Everyone's time is a precious commodity.

The article below originally appeared in RAIN NEWS.  

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

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.

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:

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

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.”

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