You’ve made the momentous decision to start your own podcast. Great! And, you know what topic/niche to focus on your podcast around.
But how are you going to present your material? Not all podcasts are created equal. And there definitely is variety when it comes to podcast formats.
Podcast format? You may not know about this, but it is vital that you understand exactly what it is before you start planning your podcast.
If you’ve listened to even just a few podcasts, you may have noticed that each presented their material differently. Perhaps a host was interviewing a guest. Or, the podcast was just one person speaking the entire episode. One, maybe, it even sounded like a conversation between friends.
All of those are examples of different podcast formats. And we are going to break down each one for you so you can choose the right podcast format for your show.
Why are Podcast Formats Important?
Audiences like consistency. Podcast listeners want to know what to expect from a show. And that is a big part of why they come back and listen to more episodes.
To keep and build an audience, you need to stay constant in your podcast format. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do some small tweaking during your show as you learn along the way, but the overall format must stay the same. Each episode needs to adhere to the same podcast template you established in the first episode.
So, this means that you cannot experiment on how your podcast will be formatted after launching. Constantly changing the format is sure to frustrate audiences and stop them from coming back. For giving you their time, they want to be sure that they know what they are getting in advance.
This means that you really have to think about your material. Which podcast format would not only best share your point across, but will also be easy and comfortable for you to work with time and time again?
And if you haven’t a clue, relax. We break down each of the different podcast formats for you to make this crucial decision an easy one for you.
Hands down the most used of all podcast formats is the podcast interview. This is where the host(s) interviews a different guest(s) each episode.
And with podcast interviews, there are two things that are always constant on your podcast. First, the podcast format stays the same: an interview. And secondly, the message or theme behind each interview/guest is the same.
Though you may be interviewing different guests each week, there has to be a common thread between each one that highlights your podcast niche. Perhaps each is a travel expert in some way or every guest works remotely. Whatever it is, each guest exemplifies your podcast niche and can speak to a specific topic in that theme. And it’s that common thread that makes podcast interviews work.
To succeed at the interview podcast format, you need to be a great listener. Yes, you should definitely prepare before each interview and have a list of questions for each guest. But you want your podcast to have a natural flow. And a natural flow means less time spent on editing afterward. Being an active listener, you are opening the flow of the conversation. The dialogue will seem more natural and seamless. And, even more, enjoyable for the listener rather than hearing you just asking question after question.
But for podcast interviews, you need to prepared to do a lot of work outside of recording. Sadly, guests just don’t fall out of trees. Instead, especially at the beginning, you need to look for guests. And then reach out to them to see if they will be a guest on your show. This involves emails, follow-up, and then keeping a detailed schedule for your interviews. It’s a lot of work.
Additionally, you need to read up on your guest and know their background which helps not only in preparing questions but also when it comes to freely conversing while recording. The last thing you want to do is offend your guest by sounding insincere or ignorant of their history. You must do your homework.
A podcast format with a lot less work is the conversational podcast. Conversational podcasts are enjoyable to listen to. The hosts have personalities and listeners feel like they can connect to them. Think of the conversations you have with your oldest friends. That is what conversational podcasts are like. Audiences tend to really like this podcast format as it feels like listening to an extension of their own friends.
Each episode is not scripted, rather just free dialogue discussing whatever the topic of the day is. But you should still have a broad outline of main points to cover during the recording. Overall, there is a lot less work to do as you should already be a subject matter expert (SME) on whatever it is you are discussing. Again, you have the overall theme of your show, and each episode focuses on a specific topic or angle of that theme.
And not only are conversational podcasts a lot less work, but you also have someone to take the leap with and share the creative burden. And, it’s not just you carrying the podcast. You have a partner(s) in crime. But the tricky part is finding that perfect partner with an infectious personality. Not only should it be someone you trust and have a good relationship with, but someone who is committed to doing the podcast long-term.
Nowadays, it seems like everyone wants to learn something new or learn more about a specific topic. And this is where educational podcasts come in. Each week, you (and possibly other hosts) will tell listeners how to do something. And it doesn’t have to be something relating to work or the office. It can also be some fun hobby or something completely off-the-wall. It’s up to you.
One of the benefits of educational podcasts is that you can always find new audiences for episodes even a year after it’s original release date. And that’s because people will always be looking for a how-to guides. So, if you can produce entertaining yet helpful episodes, it’s easy to get downloads well past the original release date.
And, if you decide on the educational podcast format, you should really consider having an accompanying website. This way, your listeners can access additional materials that complement each episode from free downloads to affiliate marketing links giving you an opportunity to easily monetize your podcast.
But it can be difficult to educate listeners without being able to show them what you are talking about. And let’s face it, people like to see how something is being done. But if you approach your material in a creative and interesting way, you can sidestep this issue.
A solo podcast means it is you, and only you, speaking for the entire length of the podcast for every episode. If you have a lot to say, this could be the ideal platform for you. Whether you are speaking your thoughts and opinions or about life experiences, the podcast is all you.
On one hand, a solo podcast is very easy to set up and record as there are no guests to coordinate with, no other hosts to contend with, and no questions to prepare. But on the other hand, it is just you. You have no one else to fall back on, no one else to support you or come up with episode ideas. It could be lonely and challenging.
Also, listeners will either have to find you relatable or entertaining. If they don’t like you, the odds of them returning to hear more from you will be slim to nil (even if you do bring on an occasional guest to help share your thoughts or recall an experience).
But then again, you are working entirely on your schedule without having to coordinate schedules with other guests or hosts. So, when the inspiration strikes, you can instantly start recording, giving you a freedom that you will not find with the other different podcast formats.
True Story Podcast
You know the saying, “real life is stranger than fiction.” And in the true story podcast format, you prove just that. Anything from real life can be used as the source material for your show. The daily news, murder investigations, alien sightings, or little-known episodes in history. It’s all fair game.
And it’s up to you how much you want to say on your chosen source material. You can decide to have a new topic each week or run with one topic for an entire season (letting a story play out over a series of 10 or more episodes).
And these shows can be addicting, so you have to plan accordingly. If you want to spread out your true story podcast over a whole season, you need to plan the entire series at one time to make sure that you know exactly what will be covered in each episode so the entire series is balanced.
But it doesn’t matter if the topic is one episode or many, a true story podcast requires a lot of research. And the script for each episode must be created using the same tone and each recording having the same high-quality production standards.
Though it takes a lot longer to get to the final product, you can have a lot of fun with a true story podcast. Think of it as a labor of love.
The podcast format with the least competition is podcast theater (also sometimes called storytelling podcasts). But it is also the hardest of the different podcast formats to put together. And that is because you have to write a script, get sound effects, hire voice actors, and spend a lot time editing each episode.
So, what is podcast theater? Think of it as a weekly serial, like a tv show, telling a story. There are plots, cliff hangers at the end of each episode, and characters for audiences to love and hate. And the story plays out over one “season.”
If you are a creative writer, podcast theater is definitely right up your alley. Or, maybe you know a writer and you can work together to create new material for a podcast. But while creating the piece, you will need to keep in mind the production values and what it will take to record the show including the number of voice actors you’ll need to hire (or maybe you know some actors willing to work for free).
Though most of the work will be done way in advance of releasing any episode, once you do start releasing weekly episodes, there will be very little for you to do besides promoting your podcast.
So, as you can see, there isn’t one podcast format that tops all others. Only you know which of the different podcast formats will capture the attention of listeners. And which is easiest for you to keep creating content.
And don’t forget to ask yourself if you will have time constraints (how much time will you have to put research/write, put together, and record each show) or recording roadblocks.
But most importantly, think about how to make your podcast stand out. Yes, all podcasts use the podcast formats above. And that is a lot of competition. So, how can you put your own unique spin on your podcast to make your show stand out?
Whichever podcast format you choose, make sure that you are 100% committed to it. As once you start, it’s near impossible to change. So, don’t rush this decision. A podcast format can make or break a show. So, let your choice be the right one for you.