My Stories Startups

Short-form podcasts are the future, just not mine

Long story short, after coronavirus made me come back from the Los Angeles part of my March business trip early and importing was out of the question, I decided to start a podcasting company.

By myself, with my $150 Blue Yeti mic. Not much, but certainly enough to get started – or so I thought.

During the first recording session, I realized there’s one big problem: I sound terrible. Proper intonation and voice acting were more difficult than I expected.

I’ve spent 3 weeks trying to get it to an acceptable level – speaking faster, slower, louder, quieter, with more pauses, with fewer pauses… it just wasn’t there. Not being a native English speaker didn’t help, either.

So eventually there was no podcasting company.

But when figuring things out, I came to something that can be a big trend in the coming years: short-form podcasts.

When writing a script for the first episode that was meant to be about 20 minutes long, I found it pretty time-consuming.

Considering I wanted to start multiple podcasts, releasing at least 1 episode a week for each of them, it wasn’t possible to spend that much time just writing.

The solution proved to be very simple: why not just make the episodes shorter?

Instead of producing 1 20-minute episode, I’d produce 3 7-minute episodes. That meant 3 weeks’ worth of content instead of 1 week’s worth of content.

I needed some rationale to potentially explain why the heck are all podcasts so short. After some research, it started to make even more sense than I expected.

First, Edison Research found out in 2018 that 50% of people not listening to podcasts don’t listen because they’re too long.

Second, the video & audio analytics platform Pex tweeted the average length of a podcast episode fell from 45:44 in 2015 to 35:27 in 2020. The trend of shrinking episode length is there.

Third, the idea of short-form content is already getting a lot of attention, although in a different field – it’s Quibi with $1.75 billion raised to produce short-form mobile-only TV series.

UPDATE: Quibi is shutting down, but I think everybody knows it’s not because the TV shows were too short – it’s probably their mobile-only approach and vertical video (all content had to be shot in a certain way to fit the screen in portrait mode = a lot of limitations & higher production cost) that killed them. Launch during the Covid-19 pandemic also didn’t help (you don’t really need short-form content when you’re sitting home the entire day) but I think they would’ve survived this if not for the mobile-only & screen stuff mentioned above.

Fourth, there already are some successful short-form podcasts like Six Minutes, so it isn’t completely uncharted territory.

The decision was made: I’m going to start the first short-form podcasting company. All podcasts will be 10 minutes or less.

I was aware my podcasts won’t be anywhere near the best ones quality-wise, and I wanted to build the company to sell it, just like Gimlet did.

So I needed something more.

I needed to create and represent the short-form podcasting movement.

One of the reasons companies are acquired is that they provide the acquirer access to a new (sub-) industry. If I started a regular podcasting company, I would have to be too freaking good to stand out among tons of others.

By being a short-form podcasting company, I wanted to create a league of my own. 

Sometimes the positions of brands are so strong not necessarily because their product or service is the best, but because they were the first, good, and fast enough to make their brand represent their niche.

That means I’d focus almost as much on promoting and associating my company with short-form podcasts as on the podcasts themselves.

Who knows, maybe it would have worked.