How long should a podcast be?

Figuring out how long your podcast should be is a key to success, so how do you decide? We break it down to make it easy.

Finding the right podcast length is essential to success. As someone who’s listened to hours of podcasts a week for 15 years and made my own for the past 7 years, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to nail this critical aspect.

Here, we’ll break down why lengths work and why they don’t, what most podcasts do, how to find one that works for you, and how to experiment as you go.

Understanding the appeal of various lengths

Considering the endless number of podcasts out there, it’s no surprise that there are shows who’ve managed to make everything from sub-5 minute episodes to 5 hour+ work for them. The first step to understanding which will work better for you is appreciating the appeal of these extremes.

Ultra short

The idea behind the ultra short podcast is that it’s snackable. It requires very little investment on the listener’s part. I would define shorter podcasts as being under 10 minutes. Honestly though, these podcasts aren’t very common. Even short daily podcasts are usually more in the 15-20 minute range.

The reason? I suspect it’s connected with the medium. Podcasts are a deeply personal way to engage with content. They draw you in and are easy to enjoy while you’re doing other things. While short videos make more sense on platforms like Youtube because people are less inclined to devote 100% of their focus to something for as long, because podcasts give you more flexibility in how you listen, they don’t lend themselves as well to the ultra-short format.

Ultra long

Some podcasts are famous and beloved for their extreme length. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History comes to mind. He might only release a single episode per year but that episode will be up to 6 hours long and of exceptional quality (Carlin is upfront about recording entire hour-long episodes which he ditches because he’s not satisfied with them).

But Carlin is the exception. Most longer podcasts are interview shows. Examples like those from comedians Joe Rogan and Marc Maron are among the most popular out there. Again, these creators are able to succeed with hours of content put out every week because they ensure the quality doesn’t slip.

The takeaway is that longer podcasts require longer commitment. Most of the creators succeeding in this space are more established and have developed a formula that works. It’s not a great idea to begin with a format that’s over an hour, but to rather ease into it and experiment over time.

The happy median

The average podcast is about 43 minutes long, so this is clearly where most creators have found their sweet spot. These shows fit neatly into a commute, running errands, doing chores, etc. instead of taking up an entire afternoon. If you’re creating a new podcast, the 30-35 minute mark is roughly where you want to start. From there you can experiment and figure out what length works best for your audience.

The details which make podcasts work at various lengths

Going beyond the basics of podcast length, there are certain elements which make podcasts work when they stretch over 1 hour. Here’s a few tips on how you can make longer content work better.

Dividing into segments

Some podcasts like the long-running On the Media take a roughly 50 minute length and break it up into segments on specific issues centered around a common theme. This approach has a few advantages. The common theme means the episode can work as a whole for anyone wanting to listen in one sitting. But for those who want to just hear some of it, there’s the option to skip some segments.

A side benefit is that these segments make it easy to cut your episodes up into microcontent you can publish on social media. Repurposing podcast content like this is a key strategy for successful growth.

Pauses and speaking styles

Some longer podcasts (and even some shorter ones) can feel a bit exhausting. You’re bombarded with information and might even feel the need to use a podcast app to slow down the speed. That’s where the importance of pausing and speaking style comes in.

As someone who used to teach public speaking, I can attest to people’s fear of silence. But it’s actually a critical tool to allow your audience to catch up with you, take a moment to process what you’ve said, and not feel so overwhelmed with talking. Go listen to some of the ultra-long podcasts mentioned above and you’ll hear plenty of pauses.


The last thing to consider is the topics you’ll cover. Some topics are worth delving deeply into, while others might work better with something shorter. Try and empathize with your audience and consider whether you can hold their interest. One critical way to do this is to listen to the podcasts your audience likely listens to and pay attention to how the length affects you as a listener.

How to experiment with lengths

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to podcast length. It makes sense to experiment a bit to see what works best for you. This may change over time, or you may find a mixture of longer and shorter episodes works for you.

Try special extra episodes

Try and throw in occasional extra long or extra short episodes and see how they perform. Of course the content might play a role, so it’s best to repeat this experiment a few times and see if you can get consistent results. Then you can try adjusting your main content and see if the benefits follow.

See when people stop listening if possible

This is tricky because for most podcasts there’s no way to do this. But, if you can find a podcast player which gives you this data or even upload episodes to Youtube (it won’t be perfect data because people listen to podcasts differently on Youtube) this is a straightforward way to see when people get bored and tune out.

Just ask your audience

If you just want to keep it simple, this is a great option. You should be listening to your audience anyways, so why not ask them whether they prefer your longer or shorter content?

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