Update, December 2019: One year later, I re-ran this analysis using a larger sample size of 19 million podcast episodes. Find the updated data here.
I can’t tell you how long your podcast episodes should be.
But I can tell you how long most podcasts are.
Recently, I grabbed the metadata from more than 10 million podcast episodes. I focused exclusively on audio (no video podcasts) with release dates after June 2005.
Then I crunched the numbers.
Overall average length
43 minutes and 24 seconds.
That’s the mean average episode length across my sample of 10 million podcast episodes. Of course, mean averages are sensitive to outliers like this eleven-hour episode, or these one-second episodes. Considering these extreme outliers, I decided to look at the median average:
Based on a sample of 10 million episodes, the median podcast duration is 38 minutes and 42 seconds.
In other words, half of all currently published podcast episodes are longer than 38:42. The other half are shorter.
Average length by category
The average length of a podcast episode varies a lot depending on the category. Gaming and music-related categories tend to have the longest episodes. Business and education-focused categories have the shortest episodes.
Here’s a breakdown of median episode length, by podcast category:
Average length over time
I was curious to know if podcast episodes are — on average — getting any longer or shorter. So I took my 10 million episodes, lined them up by release date, then calcuated the monthly median episode length. Here’s what I found:
Looking back at the monthly averages, it seems clear that average episode length crept up slowly in the early days of podcasting. It stablized and levelled off, and is currently on a slight downward trajectory.
(I’m not entirely sure about the sudden spikes in late 2009, late 2013, and mid–2016. Your theories are most welcome.)
Are popular shows longer or shorter than average?
To see how popular shows compare to the general population, I looked at 21,585 individual episodes published by shows listed on the Apple Podcasts US Top 400 on October 25, 2018.
The mean length of episodes from Top 400 shows was 53 minutes and 4 seconds. The median length was 47 minutes and 30 seconds.
On average, episodes from chart-topping podcasts are longer than shows in my 10 million episode sample. But I wouldn’t make too many assumptions based on length alone. Many of the shows on Apple’s charts are there because they’re high quality, well-marketed series… not because they’re longer than average.
Our approach at Pacific Content
There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for episode length.
At Pacific Content, most of the episodes we produce are in the 25–30 minute range. There are many reasons for this, including average commute times in the US.
Remember, podcasts are a medium built on loyalty and habit. The best shows earn their place in a listener’s daily/weekly/monthly routine.
As a podcaster, your goal should be to make episodes that are long enough to fit into your listeners’ lives in a regular, ongoing, meaningful way… and no longer.