8 Podcast Formats To Consider For Your Show

Last updated on September 25th, 2019

A podcast format details the structure and content of your episodes, each with their own pros and cons. In order to keep your audience engaged, you’ll want to have a consistent style so ahead we’re covering the eight most popular types of podcast formats.

1. The Interview Podcast Format

An interview style show features a host (or two) who interview a new guest in each episode who brings their unique expertise and experience. After a brief guest introduction, the host takes over asking questions to guide the conversation around the episode’s topic working to unpack their stories and lessons. Since each guest is different, it’s best to stick to central them to keep your show cohesive.

Pros

  • Your guests do most of the talking. You just have to steer the conversation.
  • Listeners are forgiving about little mistakes (ums, likes, and brief pauses) because they know you’re having a legitimate conversation. 
  • Opens your show to a new audience because your guests promote their appearance on your show, especially to their fan base. 
  • Your show gains access to a variety of viewpoints and opinions, which stimulates discussion and adds value for your listener.

Cons

  • This is an extremely popular format, so you’ll struggle to stand out. 
  • Interviewing is a skill that takes patience and practice. 
  • Finding a new guest for each episode takes a lot of work. 
  • If you interview someone over Skype or Zoom, you’re at the mercy of your connection. It may take a few tries to get enough audio for an episode. 
  • You have to do some deep research on your guests. 
  • In some sense, you rely on your guests’ ability to entertain and deliver information. Your episode will suffer if they’re difficult, inarticulate, or boring, (unless you can compensate). 

Examples

2. The Solo/Monologue Podcast Format

This podcast format is fairly common. It’s used by people who have a specific kind of expertise they want to share. There isn’t much fanfare or setup. You simply talk into a microphone.  Many new podcasters start with this format because it’s so simple. All you need to get started is a microphone and some free editing software. 

If you choose this podcast format, you’ll have to decide how much you want to plan each episode. Some podcasters are comfortable ad libbing off a few notes, but others have a hard time talking for 30-45 minutes without detailed preparation. You may decide to write a complete script for each episode

Pros

  • You don’t have to rely on anyone’s help or involvement. Everything happens on your own schedule and at your own pace.
  • Your audience comes to know you intimately. This is powerful for brand building. 
  • Editing one voice is much easier that editing multiple tracks.
  • If you don’t like how you said something, you can simply say it again and cut out the bad bits.

Cons

  • It’s a lot of talking. Speaking for 30 to 45 minutes is tiring. And that’s only if you record it perfectly the first time. Realistically, you’ll talk for an hour or more for each episode. 
  • You don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off (unless you have a partner or team behind the scenes) or help you promote.
  • If you’re nervous behind the mic, you may need to practice a bit before recording for your first episode.

Examples

3. Conversational/Co-Hosted Podcast Format

This is another common podcast format. It involves two people having a straightforward conversation who generally have great chemistry together. Unlike an interview podcast format, however, these two people are both hosts.

In many cases, each host will play a specific role in the conversation. One might report the news snippet while the other provides commentary or comedy. One might teach lessons while the other tells stories from their experience. 

sinisterhood co host podcast format
Sinisterhood Podcast Co-Host Format

Pros

  • You’re only responsible for half the conversation. You might also split up all the other tasks that come with producing and promoting a podcast.
  • Fans feel like they’re part of a club or group, especially when the hosts create an entertaining, friendly environment.
  • It’s easy to listen to an organic conversation rather than a prepared script.

Cons

  • You both need to stay on the same page regarding the purpose of each episode. There could be a conflict if you don’t agree on the overall message. 
  • It’s harder to edit two voices as opposed to one track. 
  • You have to choose topics you both know about (at least a little).  
  • Since each episode relies on conversation, you can’t do much scripting to prepare.

Examples

4. The Panel Podcast Format

A panel podcast is similar to an interview podcast, but with more people. Each episode has a single host and a group of guests. For your listener, it feels like overhearing an organic conversation between friends. 

Pros

  • Each episode is full of unique, interesting opinions and insights.
  • There’s almost no pressure on the host because the panel of guests do a majority of the talking. Some hosts only ask a few questions throughout an entire show and let the guests most of the talking. 

Cons

  • Filling the panel with guests is a ton of work. You’ll have to coordinate everyone’s schedule. As a new podcaster, finding even one guest is a challenge. 
  • You’ll have to work to keep people included (so they aren’t silent for 20 minutes), but you’ll also have to prevent them from talking over one another.
  • Your guests will naturally want to talk about a topic far longer than you want them to. You’ll have to learn when to cut people off and how to move on seamlessly. 
  • There are some technical challenges that come with recording audio from multiple sources.

Examples

5. Non-Fictional Storytelling Podcast Format

Non-fictional stories are podcast episodes about real life events. You might dive into a series of murders, chronicle an expedition up Mount Everest, or recreate a historical event. You can tell one story per episode or span your story across an entire series. Or you could simply report the news.

This is an excellent podcast format for listeners who like to learn more about our world. You have the opportunity to expose people to new ideas, concepts, and events. 

Pros

  • This podcast format is highly addictive for people who want to know more about a specific topic.
  • You can splice in other audio elements, like news broadcasts, movie clips, or environmental sounds to enhance the experience.
  • There are unlimited stories to choose from you.  

Cons

  • It’s hard to stick to a consistent publishing schedule because some episodes take longer than others to produce.
  • You have to know what you’re talking about precisely. Listeners are reluctant to forgive mistakes of accuracy. 
  • This is a laborious and time consuming format, especially when it comes to research. 
  • This is a challenging podcast format without a big team behind you.

Examples

6. Podcast Theater Podcast Format

Also know as Fictional Storytelling podcast format, these are fictional stories told across multiple episodes, similar to dramatic television. Some are narrated by a single voice. Others use multiple voice actors, sound effects, and other audio elements. Just like TV shows, these podcasts use tension, climaxes, and cliffhangers to tell their stories. 

This is a great format for creative types who like to create characters, weave plots, and build fictional worlds. If you like to write fiction or make films, this format may be right for you. In fact, some fiction writers simply read their stories dramatically like audio books and release them as podcast episodes. 

we're alive podcast theater format
We’re Alive Podcast Theater Format

Pros

  • Audiences are highly “sticky” because they need to know what happens next, especially if you weave your episodes together well. 
  • This is the least common podcast format, so there’s little competition among other podcasts.
  • You get to make it all up, so you can worry less about factual accuracy.

Cons

  • It’s an unusual format, so building an audience will take time and work. 
  • You’d be competing with every other source of drama and storytelling, including TV, movies, and YouTube. 
  • Since all episodes relate to one another, you basically have to plan your entire “season” upfront so you hit all the right plot points and end in the right spot. 
  • This is a poor format for uncreative people.

Examples

7. Repurposed Content Podcast Format

Repurposing content is when you take content that already exists and transform it in a way to get more value out of it. You might add to it, split it up, or transpose it to a new medium. Some bloggers simply take existing written content and repurpose it into a podcast for an audio experience.

For instance, a religious organization may turn their weekly sermon into a downloadable podcast. A speaker could record and release his lectures. A comedian might publish recordings from his standup routines. 

Pros

  • Easy to produce this content because you already have it. You just have to do some editing to format it like a podcast.
  • Since you don’t have to make the content, you don’t need a big budget.

Cons

  • Since the content wasn’t originally intended for a podcast, it might not feel quite right. For instance, a lecturer might ask his audience for a “show of hands,” which obviously isn’t interactive through a podcast. 
  • People have other ways of getting the exact same content. 

Examples

8. Your Own Podcast Format

One of our favorite things about podcasting is that it’s just as dynamic as writing or video. You can do anything you like to stand out, build an audience, and engage your listeners.

If you want to do something unique that doesn’t fit into a traditional podcast format – that’s okay! Experiment with your own style or mix several styles together to create something entirely new.

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