Off to a Bad Start

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Have you noticed how long it takes for many podcasts to get to the content?  Apparently listeners are noticing and taking things into their own hands.  In fact, in their hands are the skip, stop and delete buttons.  

We are seeing greater anecdotal and empirical evidence that long starts with pre-roll commercials and lengthy intro blocks are skipped as people advance to the meat of the podcast.  Many podcasts can take three minutes, five minutes or much longer to get to actual show content. That indulgence may have been OK a few years ago, but today bloated opening content is a risky recipe for most podcasters, especially in an environment in which we think our microwave takes too long to make popcorn.  

   Minute-by-minute performance of a name redacted podcast from Apple’s Podcasts Connect account. The drop-off for the first 15 minutes is from skipping. And yes, this podcast is way too long losing audience along the way.

Minute-by-minute performance of a name redacted podcast from Apple’s Podcasts Connect account. The drop-off for the first 15 minutes is from skipping. And yes, this podcast is way too long losing audience along the way.

Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn agrees:

“Podcasters by putting the fluff at the beginning are training Podcast listeners on how to skip segments of shows - and that is not a good thing if they want them to stick around during commercials.”  

While this certainly affects commercials, it actually goes much further. Rambling introductions, self-indulgent commentary or just plain superflous chit-chat can cross the line rapidly from warm and conversational to banal and repelling.  

bloated opening content is a risky recipe for most podcasters

Walch says: “With iOS 12 now supporting skip forward in Podcast playback, I expect to see even more shows with the beginnings being skipped.” 

   YouTube audience retention report - image credit: YouTube

YouTube audience retention report - image credit: YouTube

It will be hard for most podcasters to defy what has occurred with on-demand video engagement. Maybe it won’t be as severe with podcasts, but YouTube engagement drops sharply in seconds, with some studies showing 45% of viewers abandoning videos within the first minute.

What can you do? Review your own podcasts to see how long it takes to get to actual content. Then look at your analytics for signs of skipping or abandonment.

Most media today, whether it be TV, video, or radio is focused on the “fast start” to captivate listeners and viewers right away. When I was managing radio stations, we took care to hook, capture and engage the audience with streamlined formatics and incentive oriented teases designed to reduce the dreaded finger punch.

Many podcasters think the opening ramble is charming, and for some it works, but many are now learning it is difficult to disregard human nature:

People are allergic to having their time wasted.

Respect the listener’s time or they will take things into their own hands. That never works out well for content creators.

   At the NAB/LMA      Voice Summit      in Washington I will be presenting about how to attract and retain audience on smart speakers. December 11. Join us.

At the NAB/LMA Voice Summit in Washington I will be presenting about how to attract and retain audience on smart speakers. December 11. Join us.

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Steven GoldsteinComment