The Lost Art of Brevity

The Lost Art of Brevity

The underrated and important lost art of brevity


By Reaon Ford (Senior Producer at JAR Audio)

The underrated and important lost art of brevity

The underrated and important lost art of brevity

The important lost art of brevity

The important lost art of brevity

The lost art of brevity

The lost art of brevity

The art of brevity

The art of brevity


Have you ever started watching a show, reading an article, or listening to the radio, and thought to yourself; “Get to the point already!?” Of course you have, along with every other human being on the planet. That’s why expressions like “TLDR” and “TLDW” have become ubiquitous in comments sections and social media threads.

It’s perhaps most maddening for anyone who’s ever tried to track down a recipe online — you often have to scroll through 15 pages of preamble and family history before you get to the actual ingredients and instructions. But the same is true for almost all forms of media — and that includes podcasts — if you don’t get to the point quickly enough, you risk alienating your audience. 

It was writer, poet, journalist, and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, creator of the beloved French fable “Le Petit Prince”, who famously said

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but nothing left to take away.”

And in a time when audiences have more content choices than ever, it’s a sentiment worth keeping in mind.

To many people, both consumers and producers of media, length equals quality — but this is entertainment, not academia, so you ditch the 10-thousand word dissertations.

How to keep your content brief

Here’s how to tighten up and brighten up your content:

  • Know your audience: One of the pitfalls producers/creatives can fall into is using what I call the “shotgun approach”. Not knowing exactly who you’re speaking to, or what you’re speaking about, makes it tough to know exactly which beats to hit… so you hit them ALL. 
  • Trim the fat: Whether it’s copy, audio, or video — good editing is critical.

When in doubt, default to Orwell’s six rules for writing: 

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
  • To reiterate an old rule from radio guru Valerie Geller: never be boring. At the end of the day, your goal is to keep your audience entertained. If they aren’t… they’ll probably entertain the idea of finding something else to do instead.

Let me be clear: this isn’t an argument against long-form entertainment in general.

There are plenty of people who enjoy escaping reality for hours at a time, or taking a deep dive into very specific subjects.

lord of the rings

Examples in Media

Let’s use the example of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The three theatrical cuts add up to 9 hours and 3 minutes. The extended editions time out at 11 hours and 36 minutes. Obviously, they would never have been released if there wasn’t a market for that kind of content. But even Jackson admits the longer cuts are a “novelty” for the die-hard fans, and that the theatrical ones are the “definitive versions.” 

If you have a niche podcast targeted at a fairly specific audience, sure, go long. But if you want your podcast to be immediately accessible to as many people as possible, there’s a case to be made for erring on the side of brevity. If they like what you’re serving up, listeners can always come back for seconds.

The data

And its not just us at JAR who feel this way. The data backs us up.

According to a recent report from Riverside.Fm, 55% percent of podcasts are 30 minutes or longer. 

Buzzsprout breaks it down like this when it comes to episode length: 

Less than 10 minutes: 15%

10 – 20 minutes: 15%

20 – 40 minutes: 32%

40 – 60 minutes: 21%

Over 60 minutes: 16%

So needless to say, keep it short.

Want to explore 4 out-of-the-box podcast formats that could be the key to your content marketing goals. Check out this post

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