July 10, 2006 | Category:

Podcast Length

Podcasts. At first, I thought the idea was a bit terrible: amateurish radio full of self important types who wanted to hear their own voices. Listening to someone read their blog? No thanks.

Then, of course, came the Ricky Gervais podcast. It was suggested, by various people, that I give it a go so I did, and I’ve never looked back. Half an hour of bizarre rants by the incomparable Karl Pilkington, coralled by Gervais and writing partner Stephen Merchant. For the journey to and from work (back when I had such a thing), it was care-free easy entertainment in half an hour.

Despite reading 250-odd sites via their feeds, I can count on one hand the number of podcasts that I listen to. Why? They’re almost always far too long. Unless you are a top comedian or niche commentator, chances are you don’t have the talent to make it worth most people’s while to listen for half an hour. That’s a long time to give up in one solid block. It’s not even that your material doesn’t warrant a listen, it’s just that it requires a great deal of effort to sit down once a week or so for that length of time. There are a few podcasters that I would like to listen to, Dustin Diaz being a prime example, but it feels too much like adding a signficant burden to the already considerable pile of stuff to do, the masses of other media already taking up my time.

The solution? Make shorter podcasts! I, and I’m sure many others, would be more receptive to six 5 minute podcasts a week than one half hour effort. It’s only five minutes that needs to be squeezed in — heck, you can do that while checking your email at work in the morning.

And you know what? It’ll be good for some of you (not pointing any fingers) to show some editorial skills and restraint. Sure, the banter is important, but it often threatens to overtake important messages. Bite-sized is best.