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How long is a podcast?

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Brett Spencer | 17:22 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010


Something I wrote on a blog a couple of weeks ago has provoked quite a lot of debate. Unfortunately, because the blog was from an executive over at Absolute Radio, some of you may not have seen it.

Adam Bowie, Head of Strategy and Planning at Absolute, wrote a post on his personal blog questioning our decision to split some of our podcasts into two parts. It seems that iTunes is only serving the second half of some of these podcasts to listeners automatically, requiring more manual downloading to get both parts. You can read Adam's post here. I thought it worth repeating some of our reasoning here on our own blog.

I'll take our new two-part Danny Baker podcast (149,730 downloads in December) first. We had correspondence from listeners before the new Saturday morning show even started. They all wanted to know if the podcast was going to be the whole show, we assured them it would be. Now if we offered this entire show as one part, it would be one hour and forty minutes. I don't know about you, but I really wouldn't download a podcast that is one hour and forty minutes let alone listen to it.

In addition we have discovered that listeners like podcasts made available as soon as possible. With Danny Baker the intention has always been to make Part 1 available before the show is over at 1100. So anyone that tunes in late, or doesn't get up that early, or dare I say it, is listening to something else, can get it immediately. There have been a lot of emails from the listeners thanking us for making the whole show into a podcast but, as yet, no complaints.

In terms of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews (288,037 downloads), we get three very common questions:

  1. Why don't we get the whole show (you do).
  2. Why are all the reviews so rushed at the end (that's what the show sounds like)
  3. Can we have the reviews in a separate podcast? This last one is quite common:

We have experimented with putting the interviews at the end of the podcast, but I often found listening back it didn't make the show terribly cohesive. We have also podcasted 2 or 3 shows from Mark and Simon during the week and this been well received.

Now, faced with the longer show, we want to offer the whole thing. So how do we do that given that we know listeners don't want a 90-minute file, they want the reviews in a separate podcast, and they want the whole show? The two-parts seems to us the best solution. We may be wrong. You, the audience will, as always, tell us. One part or two? The decision rests with you.

Brett Spencer is Interactive Editor at BBC Radio 5 live


  • Comment number 1.

    First things first, I wouldn't want you to reduce the length of the Danny Baker Show. It's the best show of the week and I wouldn't want it any shorter. Whilst it may sound like a small point, not only is it frustrating having to download part two manually, it's also frustrating that they appear in the wrong order. i.e. when you're listening on your iPod, it doesn't flow from part 1 to part 2 without having to go back into the menu.

    To be honest, I don't think that the length of the podcast matters too much if the content is good. I guess that many would like a half hour podcast as it fits in with the time taken to walk the dog or drive to work. In short, most of the time people are doing 'other things' when listening so it depends on their given activity during this time.

    I guess going over 90 minutes would be taking it a little far but certainly anything under this is acceptable in my view. The main thing is that the BBC keep providing content to download by podcast. It makes it far more accesible that simply listening again via the iPlayer.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why not run two feeds. One for a highlights feed, and one for the full show. Plenty of other podcasts end up offering a choice of feed - often MP3 vs (enhanced) M4A. Mention each in the introduction to the other. That way, only one show will appear on each feed at a time.

  • Comment number 3.

    Think I have to agree with alaninbelfast. Personally I have no problem with long podcasts, especially with messrs mayo and Kermode, as I could and would listen to bot of them all day. but can see how a highlights feed might work for some too.

  • Comment number 4.

    I’m subscribed to plenty of podcasts which are in excess of 90m long. If I want to listen to it, I will. Splitting it up is nothing more than an inconvenience.

    (I actually have one podcast which is 6 hours long, delivered once a week…)

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree. Its much better to have a 90 minute Kermode and Mayo podcast. On a couple of occasions since the new program began I've forgotten to manually download the first half of the programme in itunes, synced my ipod with my computer, and then found on the train that I only had the second half.

    Just upload it all as one file. People will still listen to the podcast if they want to regardless of its length.

  • Comment number 6.

    The 2 feeds is definitely an option. Also on the combined feed you could make it an enhanced podcast with chapter markers for the interviews and separate film reviews.

    I listen to many podcasts between 45 minutes and 90 minutes long. The splitting of the podcast is a real inconvenience whenever multiple updates are provided whilst iTunes is not active. You've just made the problem happen every Friday afternoon for me now !

    I bet the show producers are happy you wouldn't listen to anything that long. Perhaps you should ask them to shorten the shows ?

    Anyway, I'm unsubscribing from Mayo and Kermode after this weeks listen so you can knock 1 of your list of subscribers.

  • Comment number 7.

    Was there ever a resolution to this problem of splitting podcasts or running two feeds?

  • Comment number 8.

    The Kermode/Mayo programme has been produced as just one podcast in recent weeks. A much better way of doing things, especially for itunes users.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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