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Podcast bloat

Note to IT podcasters: Please keep your appointments with your audience brief.

I love podcasts. Especially the free ones. I have iTunes load 'em into my iPod and when I go running, shopping, or clean the house, I can catch up on the latest IT news and views. The problem is, increasingly I never get to the end of the podcasts I'm listening to. They're way too long.

Many of the IT podcasts now routinely stretch beyond the one-hour mark. Security Now, Boagworld (which covers Web design), Java Posse, In the Trenches, Linux Basement--gluttonous time-consumers all. Some even routinely close in on the two hour mark (Java Posse in particular). I've heard rumor of a two-and-a-half-hour Java Posse podcast.

Honestly, people. Two and a half hours is almost half the time needed to listen to some entire unabridged novels. Aren't these podcasters thinking a bit too highly of every little aside they make? Can't they cut the banter about their vacations and other matters of little interest to those who don't know them personally?

Perhaps not surprisingly, it is established media who best keep the running times under control. CNET has a snappy daily news podcast that runs under 20 minutes. ExtremeTech's weekly broadcast is relatively loose and informal and yet stays under 30 minutes. InfoWorld has a tight news headlines briefing that snappily conveys the previous day's events in five minutes (though lately, "sponsor podcasts" have been latched onto the end of these shows, which balloon out the length to 20 minutes or more).

Non-IT mainstream media-generated podcasts stay succinct as well. Why does it take two hours to summarize the week's Java news when the Economist can summarize all the notable events of the world in 15 minutes or so? The Slate's Weekly Political Gabfest manages to be chatty, witty and offer a veritable treasure trove of insights into the political process but still stay under 30 minutes.

This bloating is problematic for both users and podcasters alike. When I don't finish listening to these 'casts, they don't get marked as played, and iTunes doesn't unload them. So all these half-finished podcasts litter my iPod, like stinky overfilled trash cans during a garbage strike. Plus, who knows what marvelous insights I've missed because they're unveiled around the 48-minute mark? I rarely have that much cleaning to do.

I suspect it also takes a toll on the podcasters as well. Last month, the folks who ran IT Trenches threw in the towel. That podcast offered a lot of great down-to-earth insights about system administration, though doing the show became a time-sink for its creators. No surprise there. Who has time to podcast when it takes two hours just to record, and even more time to prepare for?

A little brevity not only breeds intelligence, but keeps everyone eager for the next episode.

Posted by Joab Jackson on Jan 22, 2008 at 9:39 AM

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Reader Comments

Wed, Jan 23, 2008 Carl Quinn

The rumor about the two-and-a-half-hour Java Posse is false, and we rarely get anywhere near two hours.We try to keep regular episodes right around an hour. Looking at the last 10 I see lengths from 32 to 73 minutes.The occasional long episodes were we talk about random things are marked as special or holiday episodes and can be skipped if that's not your thing--but many listeners do like them.It actually takes a lot more work to create a well-edited 20 minute podcast than it does to create an informal one-hour podcast. Considering the JavaPosse is free and done in our spare time out of the goodness of our hearts, I think we do an OK job.

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