6 reasons you should not split a podcast topic into multiple episodes

splitting-podcast-episodes-into-parts

When a podcast episode runs long, podcasters may be tempted to split it into multiple parts. This can sometimes be an easy (though somewhat lazy) way of producing more episodes. Podcasters usually do this because of how long the full episode would be. But the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.

I’ve split episodes before, too, and I regret it.

Here are the five reasons you should not split your single podcast topics into parts.

Reason 1: podcast apps

Most smart podcast apps (also known as “podcatchers”) will automatically pause someone’s subscription if they haven’t played a certain number of recent episodes. For iTunes and Podcasts for iOS, that limit is five episodes. If I subscribe to your podcast and you release a couple or few split episodes very close to each other, then you increase the chance of my podcast app pausing my subscription to your show. I could be only two weeks behind on your weekly podcast and I stop receiving your latest episodes.

Additionally, many podcast apps have their defaults set to download only the most recent episode. So if you release two episodes closely together, only the second half will be downloaded, by default.

Reason 2: audience retention

With two separate episodes, it’s highly possible some people will listen to one part, but miss the other. This is especially true if you released the multiple parts closely together.

I made this mistake when I knew we would have a very long discussion about the first-season finale of Once Upon a Time. We split our discussion about the finale into two parts and published two episodes within 24 hours. This resulted in the most recent episode being downloaded more than the other, which means some of my audience missed the first half of the conversation.

Reason 3: topic engagement

If you release the first part of a conversation this week and the second part next week, it’s very likely that your audience will forget much of the previous part and will be less engaged. You can sometimes work around this by resetting context, but this requires either a “in last episode, we talked about” segue, or you need to plan the presentation better and carry the context through. For example, in part 1, I may say the title of a movie we’re reviewing; but in part 2, I refer to it only as “the movie” and my audience may have lost track.

Reason 4: inflated numbers

If you release two episodes in one day, you’ll see a spike in your downloads, but this doesn’t indicate any increase in your audience. It’s just that you released more content to be downloaded. Delaying your releases by a week helps, but then you still run into topic engagement problems.

Reason 5: search-engine optimization (SEO)

If both parts are the same topic, such as an interview with a guest, then you’re splitting your SEO efforts. Instead of a single post ranking well for targeted keywords, you now have two posts competing for the same keywords and search-engine ranking.

Reason 6: podcasting doesn’t have time limits

The beauty of podcasting is that we can set our own rules. While it’s generally good to keep your content fairly consistent in length, there’s nothing wrong with releasing a significantly longer episode if the content deserves it.

In radio, they have hard limits. They must take commercial breaks at certain points and they can only broadcast their show for so long. So in radio, they have to split content that can’t fit in a single episode.

Podcasting isn’t radio—set your own limits, but don’t be afraid to break them!

In my Once Upon a Time podcast, we can sometimes have very long and detailed discussions—as long as three hours for a one-hour TV show (it’s actually closer to forty-three minutes when you remove the commercials). The only complaint we received about the length was from someone who would burn our audio file to audio CD so she could listen in the car. For that one circumstance, I simply split my MP3 file for her.

Don’t use bad excuses

The two reasons podcasters split content into parts is usually because they feel the recording was too long, or that they want to release more episodes.

When the recording is too long

If your episodes are too long, then you potentially have bigger problems. This shows either a lack of planning, disrespect for your guest’s time, or poor choices in editing (or not editing).

Keep track of time while you’re recording and try to keep things moving to be respectful of everyone’s time. Try not to waste time on irrelevant topics.

If you have already recorded, find what you can remove without harming the value of the conversation. Frequently, this will be small talk in the beginning, or maybe repetitive places (like a guest answering the question twice).

When you want more episodes

Not planning your time well and splitting content into multiple episodes can be a lazy way of releasing more episodes. But when you do this, you’re not truly releasing more content—it’s usually a continuation of the same content.

The best reason to split content like this is when you want twice the advertising revenue (on a CPM model) by essentially doubling your downloads for the same content.

When splitting content does make sense

If you create a miniseries with multiple topics, even including the same guest, splitting each topic into its own standalone episode works very well. Look at how I split my conversations about podcasting and the law with Gordon Firemark. We planned our content to be individualized and treated each topic as its own episode and this worked and continues to work very well. (For example, I can point to a single episode about copyright laws.)

What do you think of split content? Why did you choose to split or not split content? What do you think when you hear split topics from others?

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About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

10 comments on “6 reasons you should not split a podcast topic into multiple episodes

  1. StevieB says:

    Hey Daniel,
    I appreciated this list. I used to try sticking to 45-55 minute-long podcasts, but sometimes I’d have a guest let me interview them and it would last much longer than 90 minutes, so I’d split the discussion in half and wait at least a week before posting the second part. I would also record intros and outros for both parts to let the listener know they were listening to the first part of two, and the second part of two.

    In the last year I’ve decided to ignore my original “time limitations/format”, and I had a guest on for an entire 90 minute interview and left it alone. I had several fans tell me they loved it, listened to the whole thing, etc.. so I don’t know if any of my listeners care one way or the other.

    That being said, I’d be interested in your opinion in how Michael Hyatt is experimenting with “batching” 13 episodes of his podcast and putting them all online at the same time. I’m intrigued by it and would be interested in hearing how that works for him.

    Blessings!

    1. For most of the same reasons here, I don’t think batch-publishing is a good idea. He’ll probably see that in his stats, soon. He’ll see the latest of a batch is downloaded most, and half of the episodes will suffer lower downloads.Faithfully,
      Daniel J. Lewis
      Grow your podcast from average to amazing! http://PodcastMasterClass.com

  2. Rob says:

    Hello Daniel, I’m new here and just wanted to say hello, My name is Rob G, It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m in the process of setting up my podcast in just a few days. I already have a few up on iTunes but don’t really want to create to many until I get my new podcast gear.

    I’ve been watching you and Cliff Ravenscraft and you guys do very nice work.

    Thanks so much for sharing a great post I’ll have to soak some of this up to full understand it all, Thanks so much

    1. You’re welcome, Rob! And welcome to podcasting!

  3. St. Clinton says:

    These are good ideas if one is doing a “talk” show, but there are other types of programs where it splitting is fine. For the type of podcast that I do (poetry & spoken word,) splitting helped in gaining more listeners, as the poets would promote not only the first episode, but the following one(s) where their work were featured and people continued to come back. Now these features did not include interviews, but dedicating a segment of the show to just their work. After seeing numbers rise for the show, I figured that what would be great would be to start a podcast show that was strictly a feature show. The feature show failed, but the other show continued to gain more and more listeners.

  4. Ben Avery says:

    Ugh, this is one of my pet peeves.

    A two part episode or conversation or whatever is fine, as long as it actually is two parts.

    But I do not like it when I’m listening to a podcast and it just stops and makes me wait until next week to hear the ending. I would rather wait a week to hear the whole thing.

    To be more specific, what I’m talking about is illustrated by a podcast I recently started listening to. TWICE, they started the podcast with nothing unusual, and then mid-conversation, a post-recorded voice interrupted and said “our conversation went too long, sorry about that, we’ll post the end of our conversation next week. They did this TWICE. No indication that it was intended to be done that way. Just all of the sudden, a voice from on high declaring the conversation was stopping. Later, they had an episode that ran long. And they let it! Yay!

    The reason this bothers me is that this is the way I listen to podcasts anyway. i stop them when I have to stop, and continue later on. I don’t need the podcaster to break it up for me just because it ran too long.

    A natural break is one thing. I don’t mind getting to the end, and then being told there is more next time. Especially if I am told up front, “This is part one” and the two parts are natural and logical.

    It just irritates me to be listening along and then the brakes are activated and I’m stuck with a week between two sentences of a conversation.

    1. I totally agree! It’s like natural and planned versus forced and whimsical.

  5. Justin Kupanoff says:

    Hey Daniel, I was just curious what you would think of splitting episodes when the bulk content of my content will be 25-40 minute episodes and and once every 5-6 episodes we have one that could come very close to 90min/2hr range? (this is where we will participate in the activity with little editing instead of just talking about the said topic) I’m just curious because of the huge difference in run time.

    I actually have more questions I’d love to ask. Is it best to find a relating episode and post it under that?

    Thanks man, you’ve really helped me with your podcast!

    Justin

    1. Hi, Justin!

      I don’t think there’s a problem with different episode lengths. Consistency is good. But when the content is really good, your audience will most likely not care how long it was.

      Look at my own track record. The Audacity to Podcast averages 45 minutes per episode, but episode 206 was about an hour and a half long! Every bit of feedback I have received has been positive, and no one has complained about the length.

      For my Once Upon a Time podcast, our “initial reactions” are 20–25 minutes and our “full discussions” have gone as long as three hours (though we average ninety minutes). The only complaints I received were from someone who burns the episodes to audio CDs, and from someone who didn’t want the depth of our “full discussions.”

      Yes, it is best to post your questions under related posts, or just email feedback@TheAudacitytoPodcast.com.

  6. porchhound says:

    This is timely advice for us as my wife and I prepare a podcast on dealing with major life changes, with the first three connected together in three general categories of Observation, Evaluation/Planning and Action. We plan on using “in the previous episodes” for episodes two and three. Episode one is 25min and we plan on keeping all of them relatively short like that….but now…..we may need to rethink our first cluster of three as one longer episode.

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