|Photo by davideferrari|
In today’s society our senses are being continually bombarded with an overwhelming and virtually limitless stream of information. How do we cope with it all? Podcasts are yet another potential drain on our valuable time resources. So, if you choose to satisfy your information cravings with this modern medium, when do you say enough is enough?
If you listen to podcasts, what is the ideal length of a podcast to fit in with your busy schedule? When do they become too long, and when are they too short to be worth bothering with?
If you look through a typical TV guide, you will see that television and radio shows are often either half an hour or an hour in length, although after removing the “dead time” between them, the actual shows themselves are more likely to be 25 minutes and 55 minutes in length respectively.
However, podcasts don’t have to be as regimented in their length as broadcast shows, as they can be listened to at any time; they don’t have to fit in to an existing schedule with predefined time slots. They can be as long, or as short as they need to be to get their message across.
Can a Podcast be too Short?
If you’re at your computer and you want to listen to a short podcast for example, then it’s probably not too much of a problem to do so. Just click the button in your web browser and listen to it there and then.
However, if there are a few short podcasts that you want to listen to in your car, is it really worth the bother of downloading them all individually onto your MP3 player? Notwithstanding the hassle you’ll have later on in the car; fiddling around with your MP3 player every few minutes to select the next track!
Furthermore, to get over any real information that may be either useful or entertaining, the podcast obviously can’t be too short.
So what is too short? Would it be fair to say that for a podcast to be of any significant value, you should be looking at a minimum length of at least 5 minutes?
While there may, or may not be such a thing as a podcast that is too short, the converse is not the case. A podcast can definitely be too long.
Our attention spans don’t seem to be what they used to be, so there will invariably be a point at which you switch off and stop concentrating. Any podcast longer than your personal attention span, is therefore too long.
The average attention span of an adult listening to a lecture is between 15 to 20 minutes. Perhaps a good guideline for the length of a podcast!
Podcasts are designed to be listened to at your convenience, wherever and whenever that may be.
If you typically listen to your podcasts in your car on the way to work and your daily commute takes 25 minutes, then podcasts lasting 30 minutes or more will probably be too long for you in the given circumstances.
Clearly then, how and when you listen to podcasts will have a significant bearing on what you think is an optimum length for a podcast.
Time is Relative
According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time is relative.
While this may be true for the physicists, it is also true for all of us, but from a more subjective viewpoint, depending on how busy our lives are.
Those with busier lives will undoubtedly have less time to listen to podcasts and will probably prefer their podcasts to be shorter and more concise; easily digestible bite sized chunks.
Lengths of Example Podcasts
By way of example it may be helpful to look at a few example podcasts to see what sort of typical lengths podcasts are:
|17 minutes||Business Ears|
|24 minutes||Pods and Blogs|
|27 minutes||Digital Planet|
|34 minutes||Guardian: Tech Weekly|
|47 minutes||The Audacity to Podcast|
|57 minutes||The Podcasters’ Studio|
|69 minutes||The Podcast Answer Man|
Looking at the above table we can see that podcasts come in a range of different lengths from 10 minutes to over an hour.
The average length of the above podcasts is 35 minutes, not too dissimilar a length to your average TV or radio show.
I’ve been producing a regular monthly podcast for Zen Internet for a few years now. The shortest podcast that I have recorded was just under 10 minutes, while the longest I did was 27 minutes in length.
Listen to My BBC Radio Interview on Podcast Lengths
A little while ago I was interviewed by BBC Radio on their Outriders radio show about podcasting and how long a podcast should be. Here’s the snippet of my interview on the show:
Or, download: BBC-interview.mp3 [4‘ 36”, 2.2MB]
Have Your Say
For my own personal preference, I would have to say that my ideal length of a podcast would be around 20 minutes. Interestingly, approximately the same length of your average adult’s attention span.
So, what’s your preferred length of podcast, if you have one?
Once you have submitted your answer below, you will get to see the results of the poll so far.