Like a miniskirt: “It needs to be long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep it interesting.”
The quote is from Henry, a friend of Joe Pulizzi, author of Content Inc., arguably the definitive guide on content marketing.
Henry wasn’t talking about podcasts, he was talking about blog posts. The sentiment, though, applies splendidly to podcasting.
So how long should your podcast be?
An argument goes, you should aim for the average commute which is 20-25 minutes. I think 20 minutes is a good starting point. It forces you to be disciplined by providing only the very best bits.
Chris Anderson, founder and owner of TED, wrote why 18 minutes is the maximum length of a TED talk: “It’s short enough to hold people’s attention, including on the Internet, and precise enough to be taken seriously. But. It’s long enough to say something that matters.”
That’s from his book, TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, where Chris quotes former US President Woodrow Wilson who was asked how long it took him to prepare for a speech. Wilson replied:
That depends on the length of the speech. If it is a 10-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare for it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk for as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.
It takes real effort, Chris insists, to create a great talk to fit a limited time period.
In many respects, then, it’s lazy to have a longer talk…or a longer podcast.
Don’t feel compelled, like the vast majority of podcasters, to hit record and keep everything in the episode. Edit out the rubbish, the mundane, the redundant, the superfluous banter. Surely you and your guest aren’t so utterly amazing that nothing can be chopped and condensed for better audience engagement.
“If you have 100,000 listeners and you edit out one useless minute you are saving 100,000 wasted minutes in the world. You’re practically a hero,” tweeted popular podcaster Roman Mars earlier this year.
If you have 100,000 listeners and you edit out one useless minute you are saving 100,000 wasted minutes in the world. You’re practically a hero.
— Roman Mars (@romanmars) April 13, 2018
If you’re not editing out that minute – or several like them – you’ll never achieve those 100,000 listeners anyway.
With 1000 new podcasts created every single day, you need to give your audience a reason to stick around. Think of your audience – not yourself. Why else would you be providing content if it’s not succinct?
Here’s a challenge. Produce a 5-minute podcast. And make each episode the best 5 minutes you could possibly make. It’s not a matter of merely recording good content, it’s about realising what is the best and keeping that and only that. It’s a great skill to have.
As Roman Mars says, “Very few people are talented enough to be interesting without extensive production. You are probably not one of them.”