Hosts are often faced with the dilemma of finding the right balance between how long their podcast should be and how often to release new episodes.
In a previous article, we found that the average podcast episode length is 36 minutes, but we wanted to dive deeper and see if there are any patterns amongst podcasts that draw a high number of listeners.
We looked at the data Rephonic collects across 2.5m+ podcasts, including listener estimates, episode length and release frequency, to provide further insights that you can apply to your own show.
While we hope these insights are useful, every podcast is different and there are many other considerations to take into account, such as your show’s niche, target audience and how much free time you have.
For the sake of readability, where we refer to ‘top’ or ‘top-performing’ shows in this article, we mean podcasts with more than 10,000 listeners per episode according to Rephonic’s own estimates .
- Long podcast episodes are becoming less common every year
- The average top-performing podcast releases a 37-minute episode every 5 days
- The top History podcasts have the longest delay between new episodes
- Fiction podcasts should record longer episodes to attract a large audience
⏱️ 60+ minute episodes are becoming less common every year
First, we took the number of 60+ minute podcast episodes published each year since 2013 and calculated the proportion of total episodes that this represented:
Over the past nine years, podcast episodes that are at least 60 minutes long have slowly but surely become less common. They made up over 20% of all podcast content in 2013, decreasing to under 17% in 2021.
Why? It could be the rise of short and frequent daily news podcasts. Or perhaps as podcasting becomes increasingly accessible it attracts more indie podcasters with less budget to spend on producing long episodes. If you have any other theories let us know!
🏆 The average top-performing podcast releases a 37-minute episode every 5 days
We then looked at every episode released by podcasts with more than 10,000 listeners per episode and found that the average episode length is 37 minutes. This is only one minute greater than the average across all podcasts, which we found in a previous article to be 36 minutes.
The average episode release frequency of top-performing shows is 5.3 days, but this figure varies from category to category.
🏰 History podcasts have the longest delay between new episodes
Unsurprisingly, top podcasts in the News category release episodes the most frequently - once every three days on average.
On the other hand, top podcasts in the History category release new episodes on average once every nine days*.
* Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is an extremely popular show that’s notorious for long delays between episodes. It’s not uncommon for his listeners to have to wait over a month for new content, so it’s possible that this podcast is skewing the stats for the entire History category!
📖 Fiction podcasts should record longer episodes to attract a large audience
We then broke down podcast episode length by category and compared the average for all shows to the average of top shows. Some of the results are pretty striking:
The average episode length across all podcasts in the 'Fiction' category is 30 minutes, but for podcasts with more than 10,000 listeners per episode this jumps up to 52 minutes.
Interestingly, for 'Leisure' podcasts, the average episode length is lower for top-performing shows. The average length for all 'Leisure' podcast episodes is 46 minutes, but for shows with more than 10,000 listeners it’s 36 minutes.
The data might suggest that to attract a large audience your podcast episodes should be 37 minutes long and released every 5 days. But this isn’t going to be the right balance for all podcasters.
The length of your podcast and its release frequency should depend on the genre, niche, target audience, your availability, and how much great content you have.
As you mull over these points, you can also do some further research into competitor shows using Rephonic. Get started for free and view listener estimates, audience gender skew, social reach, chart rankings and more for over 2.5m podcasts.
 Rephonic estimates the gender skew of a podcast audience by analyzing the names of listeners to guess their gender. Our data is therefore not 100% accurate but rather a best guess. We believe the error to be low when taken in aggregate.