Breaking Up Your Podcasts
What's the best length for a podcast?
That's a bit like asking, "How long is a piece of string?"
The recent RAJAR MIDAS data showed a wide range of opinions:
What this shows is that there's no consensus. I listen to podcasts that can vary between a couple of minutes and nearly two hours. So I tend towards the belief that it really does depend on the podcast.
At Absolute Radio, none of our podcasts lasts over an hour. That's because we're a music station, and once you removed that (and advertising) from a programme, no matter how much the DJ speaks, the show isn't going to be all that long.
But what if you're a speech station? Five Live have recently started effectively podcasting the entirety of two different programmes, each running for two hours. Danny Baker's podcast began back in September when his new Saturday morning show started, while the Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo podcast began a couple of weeks ago when their new Friday show began.
In both cases, the BBC has decided to break the programme up into two parts. But there's a problem with this.
By default, iTunes only downloads the most recent podcast available. If you subscribe to, say, a daily podcast, but only run iTunes a couple of times a week, then it'll only download the most recent edition. With the BBC putting out two podcasts in swift succession for Danny Baker and Kermode/Mayo, most people will only automatically download the second "hour" of each programme.
I noticed as a listener this week that Simon Mayo has started suggesting that you "adjust your podcast settings" if you're only getting one podcast.
The problem with that is that it's incredibly unintuitive in iTunes, the most popular podcasting software by a long way, for users to do this.
You might start by looking at in Edit > Preferences menu, or Advanced. But you'll look in vain. Right hand clicking on a podcast won't help. Nor will attaching your iPod and trying to navigate via that.
No. You have to use the Settings button at the foot of the page, uncheck the Use Default Settings check-box, and choose Download all from the dropdown (You can also just adjust your overall defaults to change iTunes behaviour for all your podcasts).
iTunes is a fairly awful piece of software. It's bloatware, and much of it is completely unintuitive. I had to use Google to discover this functionality. No wonder that nobody's in a rush to explain exactly what to do.
Somebody at the BBC has almost certainly noticed that their programmes' second parts are downloaded far more than their part ones. But I'd attack the problem another way, and simply offer a single download. Yes - that probably means 30-45 MB instead of 20MB per podcast. But does that make much difference? Yes - I know the chart above shows that nobody wants 1 hr plus podcasts, but lots of your audience only getting half the programme is not a good solution.