What Podcast Length/Format is Best?

Curious what you all think. Personally, I won’t even begin to look at a podcast if it’s much beyond an hour. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a conversation beyond about 70 minutes that’s compelling enough to listen to.

Frankly, I’m less and less a fan of even an hour.

I’m also becoming more and more a fan of a somewhat more edited and produced style. Something more like Hidden Brain rather than Joe Rogan (I’ve literally never gotten through an entire episode of his and as a result, haven’t tried in years).

Most hour long podcasts, mine included, could be easily slimmed down to 30 minutes or less and still have the same info in a nicer package.

That’s my 2 cents. What’s yours?

Of course there are a lot of variables here, and IMO it especially hinges on the type of content and how engaging it is.

  • podcast host conversations (like Board Meetings, Patron Episodes): 30-60 minutes here seems about right - you and Nate have good ability to play off of each other and have natural conversations about specific topics. Much longer than an hour, and I feel like it has the potential to stray a bit into what could be content for another episode (on a similar note, I’ve really enjoyed when you’ve turned topics like that into series, like “tactics”, “influence”, etc). As far as style goes, I think keeping these as relatively natural conversations gives the best insight into the topic. I feel like with the topics you discuss in these episodes, I either want to hear a detailed conversation (as is done) or get distilled takeaways, which might be better suited to something like a blog post than a podcast.
  • interviews: I feel like 45-60 minutes for the style of interviews in your podcast is effective. Much shorter, and I feel like there isn’t time to get both background on the interviewee and depth on what they are there to talk about. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be shortened given more editing and production as you said. Personally, I’m a fan of a more raw interview of this length if I’m learning about a person, organization, philosophy, etc., but prefer something more produced if I’m being told a specific story.
  • storytelling: IMO this is where the production and shorter length shine. Unless you have a particularly good storyteller, a more produced style is important for engagement here.

All this with the caveat that I tend to listen to podcasts when I can spend time with them, like driving (especially), long workouts, home improvement projects, etc. i.e. I’m usually going to listen to an hour or more of content anyway, so I enjoy length and detail.

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Thanks @riley.lundquist thats super helpful.

As I consider the reformatting and updates on the podcast, I’ve basically had the same thoughts. I’ve covered a lot of ground over 260+ episodes, so I’ve been also thinking about what is needed and can keep me psyched. It’s looking something like this right now:

• When we return, we’ll be grouping episodes together that tackle a subject. For instance, three or four episodes on finger strength in a row, all from different perspectives and formats - Board Meetings, Conversations, and Informational Edited.
•Board Meetings will basically remain the same, but we will be geared toward the topic that month .
• Conversations will be fewer, more focused, and the format will be a little shorter, but the main body will be the same.
• We’ll be doing more What When How to Train episodes, and maybe figure out a more concise format for these.
• I’ll be adding edited information rich episodes that follow the topic of the month, and pull from past episodes. For instance, in a finger strength month I may have a narrated episode with clips from Eva Lopez, Tyler Nelson, Breaking Beta, and Board Meetings. Shooting for around 30 minutes with these.

Honestly, I just feel like I’ve done a lot with this medium, and the next step is to just get better at it - which means being more entertaining as well as providing more useful information with less of a time commitment for the listener.

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Sounds like you’ve got some excellent content brewing!

Really like the idea of tackling topics, especially your last point about “edited information rich episodes”. I like when you say “in episode x with this guest, they said…”, but having a new format where that information is worked in would be even better.

Keep the “what, when, how” episodes coming! Love hearing the local guests talk with you about that.

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It depends on the setup for me.

For interviews, I think 45-60 minutes feels about right to give me time to get to know the guest, really hear what they’re saying, and get invested into it. Shorter interviews don’t really do it for me. That said, there are a couple of podcasts with longer format interviews that I mostly like, but imho, definitely run too long- over an hour and it’s usually a 2-3 session listen for me, so I almost always lose the value I could have gotten out of a single session.

For board meeting style podcasts, I feel like they can be shorter- I already know you and Nate, where you’re coming from, etc- so I don’t need the buy in time- so a more condensed approach works for me- 30 mins or so.

To be honest, I mostly listen to the power company podcast for the interviews - I enjoy the board meetings, but hearing other climbers perspectives and your ability to really draw them into great conversations is my favorite part of the podcast. I enjoy the board meetings, but I do skip them now and then depending on the topic- but I never miss an interview.

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Thanks @jwilder ! This is the first year that Board Meetings outweighed the Conversations in our Top Ten Most Downloaded of the year, so that is getting factored into my thinking as well.

I won’t stop the conversations, particularly when interesting opportunities present themselves. I’ve essentially already moved FAR from the normal climbing podcast guests, simply because I’m not very interested in the pros or what they have to say in most cases.

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For sure- you’ve definitely got to factor in what your audience as a whole is listening to most.

I have faith that I’ll continue to get amazing content from you guys- already loving the new stuff that’s coming out of plugtone and am psyched to see what’s next!

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I’m literally sitting here right now driving Lana crazy with podcast ideas and plans, just upgraded to the same mic that Roman Mars uses, and I have a Plug Tone meeting in 20 minutes.

Outside of Power Company Podcast and Breaking Beta, I’ve got Hip Hop Taught Me Everything in the works, I’m doing interviews for a 6 (or so) episode narrative series and I’m planning a podcast series exploring some unanswerable questions about climbing.

Am I even a climbing coach anymore?

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At home, 20-30 is perfect so I can combine it with a short workout. In the car, 1 hour is fine. I only listen to climbing podcasts, and it kinda surprises me that none of them seem to be edited for brevity. I mostly watch youtube videos so it took me a while to get used to the podcast format, but I’m getting used to it and the slower episodes work fine for road trips.

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To be honest, I listen to podcast throughout the day, so I tend to pause them whenever it suits me. So usually, an hour long episode might be chopped up into 1-5 listening sessions. So for me, the length of the episode is arbitrary.

I usually will skip any sort of intro that the podcast producer makes in the beginning, especially if it is long. (I used to listen to the Duncan trussel family hour and he would make something like 30 minute intros).

A lot of Podcasters seem stressed about the length of their episodes and will sometime hurry through important subjects to make some arbitrary episode length, and I honestly am more annoyed by their stress than by the length. For example, the fantastic climb-Sci podcast by useful coach and Brian from climbingnutrition.com would make brilliant episodes going deep in sport nutrition but regularly skim over important bits in trying to make episodes shorter.

I guess this also is impacted by how much time you have available to listen to podcasts.

Lastly, I think the timestamps that some podcasts have started implementing is amazing and something you should start doing too. It’s so fantastic to be able to go back to a podcast I listened to a year ago and find the subject I want to relisten to in just a minute, rather than having to jump through the episode trying to find the subject I’m looking for.

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If there’s timestamps, does that also work for search? That’s how YouTube started implementing it, and now google searching can lead to a specific part of a video to answer a specific question. Fantastic feature!

I agree that I usually pass on longer podcasts. There’s another climbing podcast and all their episodes seem to be at least 90 minutes and I will only ever listen if they have on a guest I really care about and even then almost never make it to the end.

I tend to like the board meeting format and the length itself isn’t super important to me. Episodes that are 45 minutes to an hour seem sort of ideal but I have also enjoyed those mini episodes you’ve done as well.

I like that the conversation is focused but relaxed. I spend a lot of time in the spring, fall and summer driving tractors and listening to blue tooth headphones and I will often listen to board meetings multiple times and it feels like reading a book multiple times. I pick up on things I missed before and gain new insight or remember where I was in my climbing when I first heard something .

I’m personally not a huge fan of the really edited, cut up podcasts. I think they can be interesting to listen to but I sort of find it jarring and it’s just not really my thing. I find it hard to digest info in really short podcasts.

That all being said, the Devil’s Advocate episode about moonboarding which I think is like 2 hrs long is soooooo good, but definitely feels like an outlier.

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@Kashmir i assume you mean time stamps just written in the description? Or have you seen them somewhere that work like YouTube? Anchor has a similar feature, but it would be a nightmare to create long episodes that way.

If episodes are transcribed, Google searching usually finds whatever topic pretty quickly, with the right search terms.

@maxdtaylor you just reminded me that when Nate and I recorded that Devils Advocate, we were in the barn at the Rock Ranch in Hueco, which is incredible echoey. We made walls out of couch cushions and sat in our little soft cubicle. Then when I interviewed Ben I was in the back of my element in a library parking lot in what was essentially a blanket fort.

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I mean timestamps in the written description, but the way I have seen them implemented in for example the nugget climbing podcast, they also work as ‘chapters’ that I can scroll through in the episode. Its probably a bit tedious to figure out good timestamps for each episode, but personally, I will often appreciate them a lot, especially for the second listen where I might want to skip certain parts (ex. someone’s background story that I already have a grasp of)

That would be a nice feature if it were widely implemented, but it seems it only shows up on certain players, and true to tech in general, they don’t want to play nice with competing brands.

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I like both. I like the shorter ones of 30 minutes or less for quick updates about what is going on in the world. I can listen to these while commuting or etc. Then I like the longer form ones of an hour to two for in depth conversations about interesting topics

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I like the length to be dictated by the content. If it is an interesting and entertaining conversation, keep going, I wouldn’t say cutting it short to fit some arbitrary time window should be the preferred method. IMO longer episodes tend to be more enjoyable to listen to. For example many of the dirt-bag diaries episodes are so short and skimp on many details that would make the stories more rich and interesting.
Board meetings seem to be a great length for what they are, as are the regular power company podcasts. It’s just me but the overly produced podcasts aren’t as preferred, as it seems like the content starts to take a back seat to the production level.

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I’m the opposite. I listen to almost zero pure conversation podcasts anymore.

I do agree that the production can take over, but it’s rare I listen to a climbing podcast and don’t think that half of the stuff could have been cut.

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I tend to shy away from more produced programs. The more it sounds like an NPR show the less I can get into it (not to rag on NPR specifically). I struggled with Climbing Gold for that reason- it felt like there wasn’t any actual content in any of the episodes. I find that the more produced shows have a formula that they try to make every topic fit into, and sometimes the topic suffers because of that.
For me a lot depends on the host. I can listen to Chris Kalous talk to pretty much anybody for however long he wants because he’s good at having conversations with people, not just interviewing them. Breaking up an episode into several listens doesn’t bother me if the content is engaging. I’ll do that a lot with board meetings even- those aren’t particularly long, but sometimes I find it useful to stop when you’ve reached the end of a line of thought or a specific point. I’ll then either go back and listen to that segment again to better understand or take a break and pick it back up later. I wouldn’t want the episode to be broken up or something skipped just for the sake of a shorter runtime.

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