National Public Radio examined behavior data generated by users of its NPR One app to unearth some insights into the consumption of local content. In a blog post by Tamar Charney, Acting Managing Director of NPR One, she reveals that the length of a newscast matters in terms of retaining audience attention, a lesson applicable to both radio news broadcasters and podcasters alike:
Listeners make their decisions to commit to a podcast in those crucial opening moments. A mediocre episode with a good intro will almost always perform better than a great episode with a poor intro. In a world in which we’re increasingly competing for the listener’s attention against so many other entertainment options — audio or otherwise — you need to justify from the very first moment why the audience should choose you. Only established shows with loyal followings can overcome uninteresting or non-engaging beginnings.
This retention graph [above] compares how listeners responded to two different episodes of a science podcast, showing the percentage who stuck with the program at each minute elapsed. The episode with a stronger intro, displayed in orange, held listeners better in the first five minutes; the episode displayed in green had a sharp drop in listeners within the first minute and never made up the difference. This trajectory is very typical for all podcasts. The episode with the stronger intro almost always keeps the audience engaged throughout the entire piece better than the alternative.