Why does the duration of your podcast matter to Spotify?

Spotify recently announced that they’d like the podcasts on their platform to be 12 to 15 minutes in duration.

Active listening takes place during a commute.
Active listening takes place during a commute.

Why does the duration of your podcast matter?  It’s something I have often debated and one of the reasons Radio Skills for Podcasters podcasts are between 10 and 15 minutes. Why – in simple terms they are designed to be short and to the point and targeted to fit in with people’s lifestyles.

I’ve used a good deal of audience research and radio theory to come to my decision. I believe most if not all information driven podcasts should be around this time, or at the very least have an edited short version.

The BBC’s R&D department carried out some research only last year to understand how they could provide their radio content, mainly from BBC Radio 4, in different lengths to cater for the differing commutes of their listeners. In simple form you could listen to the full version, half-length or quarter length depending on your journey.

That is the key – people listening while they commute. Why, it is when the largest number of people is actively listening, rather than just passive listening.

All broadcasters of audio content and whatever platforms they are on need to grasp that their medium is more often than not a passive listen. You listen while doing something else. Even TV these days has a degree of passiveness to it with people on their tablet or laptop while watching their favourite shows.

So why are Spotify looking for short shot podcasts?

Will Page, who was at the UK Radio Festival last month for the Richard Wheatly lecture, is Director of Economics at Spotify. They are doing some interesting things with their curated content and podcast is included.

NOTE: Richard Wheatly was the driving force behind Jazz FM, I worked there and produced Robbie Vincent’s Sunday Morning Soul for nearly 3 years. Sadly Richard passed away earlier this year, he was a pioneer of the Jazz genre, re-launching the station, a record label twice he helped revive and launch many careers.

Spotify has added short versions of JazzFm programmes to their radio offering. What JazzFm does so well is curated content with presenters who know their music inside out. Your listening to the very best at what they do doing it for JazzFM, but now also available as a short on a new channel.

Add to this the BBC with some shorts of their programmes and a few others for good measure.

I’m sure Spotify aims to eat into the radio market by providing speech content as a part of its curated music offering. Radio still blows Spotify out of the water in terms of numbers of listeners in radio broadcast in respect of territories when compared.

Spotify targeting radio listeners.
Spotify targeting radio listeners.

However, as a subscriber to the streaming service you may have noticed that you can now create an even tighter curated listening experience. It’s almost your own channel of what you want and when you want it. That appears to be the aim.

What Spotify has grasped is that they have competition in the form of radio, podcast and other streaming services. If they can get the best bits together for you to listen to, the chance is, they believe, that you’ll stay with them.

I can definitely image a service in the future where you choose the songs and content and just let it play. If you have a favourite personality then why shouldn’t you be able to choose the songs you want to hear with travel, news and their links between all of it?

Absolute Radio almost achieved this with the Christian O’Connell breakfast show on each of their decade themed radio stations. Each station broadcast its song linked to 70s, 80s, 90, or their main broadcast with Christian’s links in between.

Imagine of you could choose your podcasts to play as soon as they are available inside your own stream or channel. Perhaps mixed with songs, travel news during your commute. That would be the service I might choose.

Spotify wants short podcasts to achieve this with their curated service because they understand the average length of a commute and that the commute is where listeners really engage with audio.

The next question is how do you get on Spotify – to many that is a mystery.