I’ve spent some time this week catching up on all the news from last week’s Podcast Movement. PM is the big, annual US conference on all things podcasting. And while many sessions caught the eye, VP of Libsyn, Rob Walch’s session busting the marketing myths of podcasting was standing room only.
The myth that captured the most attention in Rob’s talk revolved around the ideal length of a podcast. Conventional wisdom says it should be about 22 minutes, as that’s just below the average length of a commute. Complete bunkum, says Rob. In fact, of the shows that had hit a hundred thousand downloads within 60 days, only 10% were under 30 minutes. 84% of them were 50 minutes or longer.
I worry people cling too tightly to stats like these. New podcasters may decide to go longer because they think that’s the way to get bigger downloads. What they might not think about is whether they have enough quality content to sustain 40 minutes, 50 minutes, an hour.
Ideal Length of a Podcast
So how long should a podcast actually be? The question is impossible to answer; unless your happy with the answer “It depends”. It depends on the subject matter, it depends on the target audience. Our physical and emotional circumstances dictate the length of our attention spans from one day to the next.
Your podcast should be as long as it needs to be, providing that it remains compelling. If it doesn’t, you’re likely to lose people’s attention. Harsh as it sounds, you’re likely to start wasting your time and theirs.
No one is ever ungrateful to be handed back time. No one is ever disappointed if a delivery that was due between 9 and 5 turns up at 9.05, or even 9.30. So, if you’ve got some great points to make in your podcast, make them and get the hell out of there – while your listeners still want more.
Personally, I shudder when I see a podcast stretch over an hour, because I know I don’t have an hour to give. I will make exceptions, but the chances of me listening in one sitting is very unlikely.
Of course, what feels long to me might not feel long enough to someone else. But what unites podcast listeners is the need to derive value from what their listening to. Quality counts. I may balk at an hour but I wouldn’t listen to a 20 minute podcast if I thought it wasn’t going to be an investment of my time.
The average duration of the Top 10 Podcasts in the US right now is 40 minutes. Take Up First and Planet Money out of that Top 10 – both of which are under 20 minutes – and that average shoots up to nearer 50 minutes. Most, if not all, of these podcasts have big production teams. The latest edition of This American Life credits 34 people, plus presenter Ira Glass. These are resources beyond the reach of nearly all of us. Most UK radio stations don’t have 35 people on their staff, never mind on a single programme strand.
No one begrudges This American Life this level of production. It is magnificent. Perhaps the original podcast gallactico. My point is that every word on every edition of TAL is measured. Poured over. Thought through. Nothing is wasted. No second of those 59 minutes is left to chance. This episode of Gimlet’s Start Up lifts the curtain a little on how much effort goes into producing big podcasts like these.
Would I give 50 minutes of me time to Start Up or This American Life? Absolutely I would. I do. But that’s because I trust them that each minute of that programme is worth the investment.
Can the same be said of your podcast? Are there any areas that are flabby? Is that introduction too long? Are you jokes too in? Is your audio quality good enough to listen to over a sustained period? Is your content well thought through? Do you know how you’re going to start, move on, end? Are you guiding your listener by the hand through your episode, so they know what’s coming next?
Challenge yourself. Does every minute offer value? If it doesn’t, cut it back.
Because, we’re all time poor. And your listener is trusting you with one of the most precious commodities they have; their time. If you handle that with care, then you’ll build a relationship that will see them transition from occasional listeners, to regular listeners, to fans, to advocates. If you don’t, then you have to expect the opposite.
Steve Austins is the Director of Bengo Media. Talk to us about helping you delivering great content, every time.
Earlier this week I received an email from a friend. He said he and two of his friends were setting up a new podcast. It’s the kind of news gets me punching the air with joy nowadays. It takes all sorts, I know.
Crucially the email said:
“we have absolutely no funding. What is the minimum equipment can we get away with? I was thinking of initially recording it via my iphone/ipad but need mics and possibly a simple edit software to add a jingle or two.”
Hmm. Providing there’s a little wiggle room on the “absolutely no funding” thing, challenge accepted.
We all hear that setting up your own podcast need not be expensive. But just how cheap can you set up a three person podcast for? Well, let’s start with the basics. For something like this, you need the following:
Plus, if you want a jingle or two, you need to budget for that too. So, let’s break it down.
Let’s face it, your new podcast is going to be amazing: a ratings winner. So, unless you’re sitting on significant bandwidth at home,you’ll need a podcast hosting site to deal with all the download requests your podcast will get.
A hosting site both manages your media files and generates you an RSS feed, which you need for iTunes and other podcast directories.
However, you can cut out the ongoing costs and find a provider that does hosting for free. Do tread carefully though. For example, do your homework on SoundCloud, which seems to be under a consistent financial cloud at the moment. Check out Podigee, Buzzsprout and Spreaker for its limited free option. For me, Podiant seems to have the best free plan, offering unlimited storage and bandwidth, an embedded podcast player and analytics – all for zip. People talk highly of Podiant within podcast circles, so they are well worth checking out.
Running Total £0
Let’s be honest, you could spend nothing at all on microphones. You could pick up your iPhone and speak into the in-built mic and interview your friends in the same way. If you did, at best you’d get arm-ache. At worst, it would sound terrible and no one would listen.
If you are going to do that, at least invest in a mic windscreen and put it over the in-built mic to get rid of pops and interference. In fact, having a windscreen in your bag is a good idea for recording quick out and about interviews for your show.
Investing in some microphones is pretty much a must. And, a decent start-up solution need not cost the earth. Lapel or lavalier (lav) mics are a good starting point and work well with smartphones. But they are condenser microphones, so find a quiet room to record in as they will pick up background noise.
You can pick a lavalier mic for under a fiver. – meaning you could mic up a double headed podcast for less than £10. But adding that third person into the mix – as my friend wants to – makes things a little more complicated and pricey. In this case, it might be worth looking at the Movo range. The Movo PM 20 has two mics on the one lead, with the PM10 a more straightforward one headed lav. I use PM10s and they create a good sound for a reasonable price.
Three lav mics would set you back £40. But if you consider the best cheap directional podcast microphone is about £60, you can see what a good deal this is.
To get those lavs mics plugged into a smartphone, you’re going to need an adapter. The Rode SC6 is very good because it allows you to plug in two mic leads and a set of headphones at the same time.
Running Total £52.51
So now that you’ve got a decent and low cost mic set-up, next its finding some recording and editing software. And here’s the mind blowing thing – you can do this bit for free.
If you’re an Apple user, check out iTalk Recorder, which allows you to record up to a 44.10kHz sample rate. It’s a simple and effective app to use. And I’m not sure you need the £1.99 upgrade offered as an in-app purchase.
If you want a step up, then the Ferrite app is pretty unbeatable. It’s a free multitrack recorder and editor, while maintaining a simple user interface. There are a selection of upgrades available all the way up to £19.99 but you can record up to one hour at a time on the free app, which may be all you need.
On Android, you can try Easy Voice Recorder or Audio Recorder. But whatever smartphone you use, please bear in mind that apps can be buggy at times. For peace of mind, you may eventually want to upgrade to a digital audio recorder. Zoom have a great range, from the basic H1 to a H4n or H6 for more complicated set-ups..
Once you’ve recorded, then it’s time to edit. And if you’ve got a desktop or laptop computer, then take a look at Audacity. It’s a free open source editing suite which is the choice of many podcasters. If you have a Mac or a MacBook, then the in-built Garageband, will also do the job well for no money. There are tonnes of how-to videos for both pieces of software on YouTube.
Running Total £52.51
Getting the audio spot on is important but your visuals are important too. To get your podcast registered on iTunes and other directories, you need artwork. Podcast art needs to be a 1400 x 1400 pixel image and has stand out to grab attention. If you’re a dab hand at Photoshop, you could do it yourself. Or there are lots of podcast artwork designers on Fiverr.
Running Total £56.41
You don’t need a jingle or a theme tune but a good theme tune can help your podcast be memorable for listeners. However, copyright law prevents you from just picking your favourite song and putting it at the top of your show. Instead, you’ll need to use royalty free music, which is clear for you to use once you’ve paid a small fee. There are lots of these sites – including two I’ve used in the past, Audio Jungle and Audio Network. The latter allows you to download a WAV of your chosen piece of music for £6.99 plus VAT. They do offer 10 MP3 downloads for free to get you started too.
And with that, you’re all set. Yes, you need to register your podcasts on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn amongst others, but that’s not going to cost you any money. So, at current prices, anyone looking to do a three person podcast can do it for a total cost of £64.80. Not bad eh? Certainly on a par with three friends going out for a meal.
Caveats? Well, smartphones and apps make me twitchy, so a decent digital audio recorder is a good investment. Secondly, putting a few quid into the coffers of a start-up like Podiant will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside (and help them stay in business in the long term). Finally, good directional microphones will give you a much better sound than lavs.
But all in all, this is a good set up to get going. Which means now all you have to worry about is getting the content right. Putting a price on that? Well, that’s a whole other story.
Steve Austins is the Founder and Director of Bengo Media. Check out how we can help get your podcast off the ground and make your content stand out.
Blurrt Out The Vote – the podcast which analyses what social media is doing during the 2017 General Election – returns for episode 2. You can listen using the player at the bottom of this page.
Recorded live at Tramshed Tech in Cardiff, Tom Price is joined by CEO of social media insights platform, Blurrt, Jason Smith and Valerie Livingston, Director of political consultants News Direct Wales, to talk about a week of policy pledges, cyber attacks and, er, fish fingers.
On the agenda, Twitter’s love fest with the policies in Labour’s heavily leaked manifesto – and what that has done for the party and Jeremy Corbyn.
Also, when Theresa May did a Facebook Live Q&A with Robert Peston, angry emoticons flowed across the screen. Blurrt’s analysis found that this was replicated on Twitter, although there was some love and happiness too.
Social media brought little good news for either UKIP leader Paul Nuttall after he appeared to walk on the spot in a party election broadcast, nor Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who will have to fight off a fish finger to keep his seat in Cumbria.
Blurrt Out The Vote is published every week during the election campaign on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, and the other main podcast platforms. You can also listen on this page in the link below and find out about the series here. Blurrt’s election hub is available on their website, blurrt.co.uk and you can find out more about the company’s political work here.
To find out how Bengo Media could help create a podcast for your business, email us at email@example.com
Engaged couples can get the help & expertise of Wedding Planner Zoe to guide them through their preparations with the launch of her new podcast series.
Wedding Planner Zoe Binning from Weddings by Zoe has been super busy over the last couple of weeks prepping and presenting her new podcast series ‘Icing on the Cake’.
Her first 3 bite sized episodes were released in time for Valentine’s Day. They are part of an 11 episode series that will guide newly engaged couples in the UK through all their preparations, from setting and following a budget to finding the perfect venue, dress and suppliers.
New episodes will be released weekly on iTunes.