Podcasting has been an innovative medium since its emergence in the early 2000s. While it originated with shows that were inspired by radio programs, it has come into its own with recent innovations like podcasts that combine music and talk in their episodes.
One recent podcasting trend is the creation of short-form podcasts. Short podcasts are shows with episode lengths that range anywhere from a minute to around 15 minutes. They’ve grown incredibly popular in the past few years – over 60 percent of podcasts hosted on Anchor are short podcasts.
Short podcasts can be a great way for new podcasters to get started on their podcasting journey and to find their audience. For existing podcasters, they enable you to experiment with different show formats and offer bonus content to your audience.
In this article, we’ll share short podcast formats to consider, as well as a few tips on producing a short podcast.
Got an idea for a short podcast? Entries for the My RØDE Cast podcasting competition are open now. Submit a one-to-two-minute podcast for a chance to win one of more than 100 podcasting prize packs from the company. More info on the competition is available below.
Short podcast formats to consider
If you’re thinking about starting a short podcast, you might want to consider three podcast formats that are well suited to shorter episode lengths: focus topics, Q&As, and experimental audio.
In this format, hosts explore a single topic in each episode, typically narrated as a monologue.
“Tiny Leaps, Big Changes” is a focus topic show hosted by Gregg Clunis. In each 10- to 15-minute episode, Clunis explores topics that matter to him and his listeners, like curiosity, happiness, and coffee.
In his episode on nostalgia, Clunis breaks down the topic to share different types of nostalgia that humans are prone to experiencing, including restorative, reflective, and anticipatory nostalgia.
In this format, hosts answer a question submitted by listeners.
“Ask Us Anything by Popular Science” is a Q&A show hosted by Claire Maldarelli and Jess Boddy. In each episode, Maldarelli and Boddy answer a question sent to them by Popular Science readers. Questions they’ve answered so far include “Are there good viruses?” and “Why can’t we burn trash in our volcanoes?”
At Anchor, we’re making it easier for podcasters to seamlessly answer listeners’ questions with our upcoming Q&A feature. Want to be the first one to hear about it when it comes out? Sign up to join the waitlist!
In this format, podcasters experiment with the pssibilities made feasible by shorter episodes.
“The Daily Shine” is an experimental audio show produced by the Shine app. Each episode offers a space for meditation and self-care for its listeners organized around themes like resilience, joy, and gratitude.
If you already host a podcast, short podcasts can also serve as an avenue to share bonus content with your existing audience.
With Anchor’s Paid Subscriptions, you can create bonus episodes of your show for subscribers. Listeners only need to subscribe once, and they can enjoy your subscriber-only content on the app of their choice.
Want to try out paid subscriptions with your listeners? Sign up here!
Tips for producing a short podcast
To provide actionable tips to help get you started making a short podcast, we spoke to Gregg Clunis and Jess Boddy. Here are a few tips they shared with us:
Design each episode like a game of Jenga
To keep your short podcast episodes focused, Boddy recommends designing them like Jenga towers. "If you can take something out, and the story will remain standing, then take it out!" she says. "Let your host(s) take that strong core story and turn it into a compact yet powerful episode."
Focus is important for every podcast, but it’s even more crucial for short podcasts because of their time limitations. Clunis says, “Your episodes need to be tight and free of filler, your topics need to be focused, and you can really only deliver one idea effectively, which means staying on track.”
Organize your production workflow in advance
Your episodes are shorter, but that doesn't mean your production process will be shorter too, so it's important to keep your workflow organized well in advance.
“...Treat this like a full production, get organized, and then be willing to run around fixing things when the systems inevitably break down,” says Clunis.
The “Ask Us Anything” team has their show's production calendar in Google Sheets and tracks the development of each script through Airtable, so they can meet their production deadlines.
Boddy also recommends building in a time cushion between the start of production and the release of your first episode. This can help you manage any production hiccups you might face since you've got a backlog of finished content you can lean on in your release schedule.
Preserve your punchlines while promoting your show
Since you're dealing with material you've carefully crafted for short runtimes, try to promote your episodes without giving away the really interesting bits on social or your website.
"If you already know what’ll happen if you get sucked into a black hole, or what would happen if you throw your trash into a volcano, there isn’t a big incentive to turn on seven-minute episodes describing just those things," says Boddy. "Preserve the mystery!"
Be open to changing things up
Shorter episodes enable you to release content to your listeners more frequently, but that can also cause you to burn through your ideas faster.
One way you can avoid this is to base your short podcast on existing material. The “Ask Us Anything” team adapts their episodes from an existing Popular Science column of the same name.
Another way is to be open to changing things up. "The key is to figure out what the voice of your show is...what is that thing that you can't violate," says Clunis. "Then be willing to change everything else so long as it doesn't change the underlying voice. After that, be willing to change the underlying voice and experiment with everything."
"Long story short, ideas are everywhere. I think people get attached to the show they are creating and get scared of doing something different. Don't be."
Make your own short podcast for My RØDE Cast
With short podcasts becoming more popular and easier to produce, it may be time to start thinking about making one of your own. And what better way to do so than for RØDE’s podcasting competition: My RØDE Cast!
Anchor is the official podcast hosting platform for the annual competition, and podcasters with all levels of experience are welcome to enter! Submit a one-to-two-minute podcast for a chance to win one of more than 100 podcasting prize packs from the company. Entries open May 5, 2021, and close June 23, 2021. Check out the My RØDE Cast website for details.
We spoke to the RØDE team about what inspired them to focus on short podcasts for the competition:
“The idea for My RØDE Cast came off the back of My RØDE Reel—our short film competition. Much like the short film, the short podcast is all about hooking the listener in quickly, holding their attention, and then leaving them wanting more. With podcasting being a predominantly long-form medium, this takes creativity and bit of thinking outside the box, which we love inviting creators to do, but in terms of execution, it’s relatively easy. Two minutes is not very long—we believe literally anyone has the ability to create a two minute podcast—and that’s the most important thing, to encourage anyone and everyone to enter.”
We’re excited to hear what you come up with for My RØDE Cast. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out two entries from last year’s winners: Lidia’s Booktastic Podcast Trailer and Contemporary Issues.
Note: While submissions are entered via Anchor’s platform, My RØDE Cast is administered by RØDE Microphones and not an official competition of Anchor or Spotify. For questions or concerns please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.