Evidence-Based Insights for Podcasters from Semil Shah

“A podcast is the best way for two people to have a private conversation, right? So you really have to think through, in the audience, where are people going to listen to it, (and) how much time do they have?”

That evidence-based advice is from Semil Shah, who knows whereof he speaks. He was on the team that developed the Swell podcast app that Apple acquired last year. Because the app streamed shows directly to users mobile devices, the team could track when a give episode was listened to, how long it was played, and if and when someone skipped to another podcast.

Semil is also a venture capital advisor, investor, and prolific blogger and media creator, so he has a broad perspective on new media and podcasting, in particular. He shared his insights with Adam Sachs on episode 73 of the Wolf Den podcast.

For a regularly scheduled weekly podcast Semil said that the sweet spot is “20 to 40 minutes, give or take.” That makes for an episode that can be listened to while cooking, commuting or another activity.

Quality is very important. If a show lasts an hour or more, “it had better be really interesting,” Semil observed.

For instance, “if you have Marc Maron in here, why would you even stop talking until he’s done? There’s always going to be exceptions.”

A daily program should look to how public radio structures its news programs. “There’s a reason why NPR segments are one minutes, three minutes, (and) five minutes. It’s all been researched.”

A good open is also critical. “There’s a hook that happens in the first 15 to 30 seconds,” Semil explained. That’s why it’s also important to organize your podcast. Listeners want to know what to expect, and have a moment to think about it, before it starts. So tell them in the introduction, then follow through with the goods.

Ultimately, a podcaster is asking listeners for something of value. “That’s where you have to have an honest discussion about how much attention–as currency–I’m asking from other people.”

In a following post we’ll learn what Semil thinks about Google vs. Apple divide in podcasting, which is something that’s been in the press lately, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with a *