Why are my podcasts so long?

“Why are your podcast episodes so long?” 

Oh… if only I had a dollar every time someone asked me that in the last 3 months 😀 

Having reluctantly taken a breather this week, I thought I’d use the time to share my 2 cents on the subject.

For the uninitiated, my episodes average at ~70 mins.

When I first decided to run a podcast, I had a lot of pressing questions – like the recording software to use, distribution channel, guest quest (!?) but the runtime was never even a question. I’d always envisioned it this way and there are so many factors why it is so:-  

#1 Inspiration – where it all began 

While I’ve made it no secret that it was my mentor who inspired me to listen to podcasts (and pick up a lot of other good things on the way), the degree of that influence tends to fade away inadvertently. 

I vividly remember the chat where he introduced me to podcasting and my first response was how could anyone listen to an audio of two people chatting for close to 3 hours! 

That’s when he responded with something on the lines of,  “How could anyone miss a 2-3 hours interrupted, unfiltered conversation filled with possibly life-changing bits of wisdom from a smart person like Elon Musk, Naveen Tiwari or Tristan Harris.

It made absolute sense. 

#2 What are the best up to? 

Unsurprisingly, when I first started listening, I looked up the best at the game and ran into the likes of Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, and Sam Harris.

What I found were world-class conversationalists who got the guests to open up and dive deep into their area of specific knowledge.

The result?

Raw, unabashed, first-hand accounts of golden nuggets you couldn’t hear anywhere else.

While getting through the first 2-3 conversations were excruciatingly hard (Of course, our systems have hardwired us to crave for instant gratification).

But it didn’t take long to realize that the Investment (time) vs. Reward (learnings) was a non-linear scale. 

I mean, how many folks can hold their fort for a 150 mins chat on design ethicism? 

 #3 Personal Preference

While the influences played a big part, my personal preference is right up there – after all, we are attracted to the things we prefer/like.

I’ve always been a believer in the magic of deep conversations with smart people. 

Especially if it is on subjects you are trying to learn – like a jigsaw puzzle, that doesn’t make sense at the beginning, you start off overwhelmed and clueless and slowly realize the pieces falling into place as time passes. 

I’ve learned more from my friends and well-wishers (purely due to unintended, prolonged conversations) just as much as I did from books, tv shows, or podcasts. 

By now, it’s plain as day that I made up my mind on runtime much before I even registered my domain name.

That said, here are my thoughts on the show structure as such:-

#4 – Wide cast net

Arguably the second most asked question is, why not stick with a genre – startups, SaaS, or marketing. 

The reason is simple:- I whole-heartedly believe there are smarter people doing this at a much better manner in their niches. My USP lies in the fact that I happen to have a wide-ranging (and similar degrees of) interests – be it startups, sports, moral code, or psychology.

To give context, my last 3 guests on the show were:

  • Head of Community at Quora Tamil
  • A virologist working on a vaccine for coronavirus
  • CEO of a popular pan-India startups community

My personal inclination toward disparate topics puts me at a great advantage where I can bring you insights/ learnings from super-smart people across domains.

But what has that got to do with episode time? 

My understanding is (I may be on the wrong here as well), with a domain-specific podcast, since the # of topics you could cover has a lower ceiling (opposed to a show with no specific genre), the hosts want to space out these topics accordingly. 

Here’s some rough napkin math to support my theory: 

If I have a podcast on freelancing – for argument’s sake, let’s say there is about 1500 minutes of content that I can create as a host. I want to optimize this to the maximum extent possible. 

I could do 25x 1-hour episodes = 1500 minutes

Or I could do 50 x half-hour episodes = 1500 minutes

On the other hand, with The Takeaway Club™, I have much more flexibility in that I can keep jumping between enough topics without having to worry about running out of content to talk about. 

#5 Masterclasses a.k.a 101s 

One of my long-term goals for the podcast is to create ‘masterclasses’ in as many subjects I can with candid chats from domain experts – where any listener tuning in could confidently say they’ve learned most of the foundations on that topic in the 60-90 mins (Pareto Principle).

Case in point:   Episode-#10 Coronavirus 101 with a virologist  – it was Shashwath’s years of learnings and experience condensed into 75 minutes of ‘Stuff You Should Know’ about the virus. 

Wrapping up the episode in 20 mins would have put great constraints on both of us to deliver so much useful information in such a short time frame.

#6 – But what if I am not interested in…

Yes. Much like movies or books, where there are scenes that simply don’t interest you, or the plot just doesn’t seem to move forward, podcasts have the same inherent pitfall.

While no host tries to purposely waste their time, the guests’, or the listeners, it is bound to happen – not every topic will be engrossing. There will be periods where the conversation might have digressed, taken a turn for the worse, or simply doesn’t make sense.

After all, just like you and me, it is two people having a candid discussion, trying to find a common ground on a subject they are both interested in. 

I believe it is better to talk more than less and regret missing out on the chance to ask something – after all, listeners always have the choice to skip, forward, or stop. 

That said, I can do my part here to make it easier for those listening.

I’ve ensured that all my episodes have show notes that help you gauge if it is a conversation you’d be interested in – I’ve also started adding Episode guides containing the time-stamps, so you can jump straight to your favorite part 🙂

#-7 All said

Thanks to so many people who’ve been kind enough to give their feedback on the subject, I am going back to the drawing board to study the advantages and disadvantages in detail.

In the mean-time, here’s a curation of the podcasts I learned the most from, categorized according to running time 😉   

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