I like podcasts that are short. There, I said it.
I may be in a minority; in a recent Guardian meeting I had with iTunes staff, I learnt that the most popular podcasts are around the 55min mark (no doubt reflecting the success of public radio shows like TAL and Radiolab).
But these are radio programmes that work well as podcasts – many shows I currently subscribe to are significantly shorter – like Welcome to Night Vale, The Bugle and Do The Right Thing. If you’re making something from scratch, with limited resources, I think it makes sense to keep the quality high.
So it is with the Spark London podcast. For over four years now I’ve produced a 6-7min true story (recorded one of their many London events) and released it every couple of weeks. It’s no secret that the format is similar to The Moth (though I’d argue Spark’s stories are less showbiz) and it’s been a great way of sharing true stories to a wider audience.
But now… well, I’ve been pitching the idea to Radio 4 and decided to make the podcast a little more radio-friendly. So, for the next few months, we’re releasing a 30-min show recorded at the Canal Cafe Theatre.
Each episode has a special London guest, familiar to podcast listeners. Last month was Answer Me This‘ Helen Zaltzman, next month it’s poet Richard Tyrone Jones. This month it was Neil Denny, of the fabulous Little Atoms programme on Resonance FM.
Why thirty minutes? Well, I’d listened to The Moth Radio Hour and felt that was too long – you came away forgetting the first couple of stories, some storytellers outstayed their welcome, and the narration felt very detached from the audience.
At Spark we have three tightly produced (6-7min) stories that give you time in between for micro stories of 2min from the audience, resident pianist Kit Lovelace and the show’s host Charley Harrison.
I record six stories of the month’s best stories in front of an audience, then take the best performances and our host’s links to create the podcast. An altogether tighter show and – hopefully – a bit of a treat for Spark London subscribers, after years of individual stories.
So to refine my first statement: I like podcasts that are the right length.