How Long Should Your Podcast Be?

Is a podcast listener who has gone through the process of discovering, subscribing and downloading a podcast a devoted fan on-board for whatever the host prepares and for as long as the host chooses to talk?  

At Podcast Movement there is a significant undercurrent and impression among hosts that people click "play" and listen to an entire podcast. There is growing evidence suggesting this is not the case and might be some cold water for many podcast producers.  

While there are some exceptions, few podcasts, and for that matter, radio shows have that magic.  Going beyond podcast listening, it is a crowded media environment and busy people use the stop, forward and delete buttons on podcasts just as they do with TV shows and radio programs. 

At this past week's conference, I presented some compelling data at a session entitled "They aren't listening to your entire podcast - 7 ways to fix it" which show significant abandonment rates and how quickly listeners bail out.  

So, let's take a look.  

Data from popular podcast platform Audioboom reinforces the notion that grabbing people at the start is crucial.  Within 7 minutes, 40% are gone, suggesting the topic wasn't of interest or the execution wasn't strong enough to capture much of the audience.  Less than one-third make it through a 60 minute podcast.

Bridge Ratings did a survey of several thousand podcast listeners and found that 26% report that they are gone by 30 minutes and 40% are out-the-door by the 45 minute mark.  Few make it to 60 minutes in this survey.    

In measuring podcast starts, podcast platform Blog Talk Radio notes that 22% or two out of ten listeners are gone within the first two minutes reinforcing the need to engage quickly.  While BTR does not measure time spent listening, they council clients to aim for more than 37% of listeners to complete a podcast.  Of course the inverse is true - 70% are not making it to the end of most podcasts.

Rob Greenlee at Spreaker reports that overall TSL is down on their platform in the past year from 29 to 24 minutes for the average podcast.  While there are numerous variables, the overall trend is to shorter.

NPR is doing some fantastic analysis with their NPR One app. Thought it is not the same as a podcast in the sense that content appears randomly, NPR tracks the abandonment of each story presented.  While they have many important findings, near the top of the actionable list is how long it takes before someone skips the content -- 22 seconds.  NPR is now focusing heavily on smarter teases and more engaging story starts.  

Podcasts are listened to while doing something else including exercising, washing the dishes or driving a car. While not all podcasts are listened to in a car, a good starting point for show architecture is to think about the average commute in the U.S. which is 25.4 minutes.  A survey of one, my daughter listens to podcasts to and from work, but dislikes listening to the same podcast during both commutes.  Different time of the day, and different interests.


There are no hard and fast rules about podcast length.  Highly produced shows such as "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" most likely hold on to much of their audience.  But for the average podcast producer that is a much harder and largely unrealistic goal.  It is a cruel world out there, and people tend to be protective of their time.

Next time - 7 proven strategies to retain audience.

Thanks to Audioboom, Bridge Ratings, Blog Talk Radio, Spreaker, and NPR for their excellent and revealing data.  

Steven Goldstein - Amplifi Media

I will be appearing on a terrific panel at the upcoming Morning Show Bootcamp on August 11 in Atlanta.  We will focus on radio's future.  In a separate session, I will be speaking on the development of effective podcast strategies for broadcasters.