Which Podcast Format Is Right for You?

by | Dec 9, 2020 | Podcasting

Starting a podcast is an exciting venture, but great podcasts don’t happen by sheer luck. To create a consistent product with a devoted following, you need to put serious thought and planning into the type of podcast format you’ll use. To get a better understanding of which format may be right for you, check out these seven unique podcast structures!

Interview Podcast

The most common podcast format is interview podcasts, which feature one or two hosts interviewing a different guest, often as an expert in their given field, during each episode. Because there are different voices each time, the content remains fresh, and the expertise of knowledgable figures allows listeners to learn more about topics they’re highly interested in.

Examples

Pros

  • The guest does most of the talking and provides the majority of the content. As the host, your job is piloting the conversation by asking the right questions and listening for follow-up opportunities.
  • Interviewing experts and well-known individuals builds credibility for your podcast.
  • Multiple voices allow for different viewpoints and discussions among hosts and guests. This conversation keeps the podcast lively and interesting.
  • Having new guests each week exposes listeners to a diverse range of perspectives.
  • Your guests can share the podcast episode with their followers, opening your podcast to new audiences that are already interested in your topic.

Cons

  • Not every guest is going to be a lively contributor, and interviewing is a skill that must be developed over time. Some guests, especially those unfamiliar with media may be nervous, and you must possess the ability to relax them and draw out interesting information.
  • Sometimes, the guest just isn’t a good interview subject or is having a bad day. In those cases, there’s only so much even the best interviewer can do to save the episode.
  • It can be difficult to book quality guests, and you have to be prepared for last-minute cancellations or adjustments.
  • The market for interview podcasts is already very saturated. To stand out, you must have something that makes yours unique and worth paying attention to.

Solo Podcast

On their face, solo podcasts are the easiest podcasts to make: the host monologues and does all of the talking. However, it takes real skill to speak by yourself for many episodes without being repetitive. If you have a topic you’re passionate about and provide a unique angle or opinion on, you can develop real trust with your audience through a solo podcast because it feels as if you’re talking directly to them.

Examples

Pros

  • Your audience gets to intimately know you and develops a meaningful connection. This is great for building your personal brand.
  • Monologue podcasts are the simplest to set up. All you need is a microphone and podcasting software to get started.
  • Because you don’t have to worry about involving guests or cohosts, solo podcasts are recorded at your convenience and pace. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish recording each episode. And if you mess up, no problem; you can easily re-record and edit around any miscues.
  • You have complete creative control over podcast content.
  • Editing the podcast is easier because there’s just one audio track.
  • You can do as much or as little ad-libbing as you want. As opposed to an interview or co-hosted show where you have to respond on the fly to what someone else says and does, solo podcasts allow you to follow a strict outline or pre-written script if you desire.

Cons

  • It’s not easy for most people to come up with original content when talking by themselves. You have to constantly find new things to say without being repetitive and boring your listeners.
  • Without a co-host, guest, or panel, there’s no one to bounce ideas off of. It’s up to you to not only generate content ideas each week, but to speak on those topics without having anyone respond to them as well.
  • Unless you’re an expert on your topic, you may run out of original things to say and risk publicly exposing a lack of depth to your knowledge.
  • Podcast production and promotion is completely on you.

Conversation Podcast

Two or three people with good chemistry get on the mics and have an honest conversation. This format is popular because listeners feel like they’re overhearing a chat between friends. These low-effort podcasts are often fun to produce because you have a relationship with your co-host(s) and can rely on them to help keep the conversation lively.

Examples

Pros

  • Listeners get multiple viewpoints rather than just one. Disagreements provide an opportunity for engaging content and cause the listener to think, develop their own opinions, and take sides in the argument.
  • Conversation podcasts feel more organic and less scripted.
  • Episode planning, production, distribution, and promotion are split between the hosts rather than handled by one person.

Cons

  • You need to find a co-host with whom you have a good rapport. It’s painfully obvious and often awkward when co-hosts don’t really get along or care for each other.
  • When recording with a friend, it’s easy to make inside jokes or references that might lose and annoy the greater audience.
  • Both co-hosts have to be knowledgeable about the topic. If one is more prepared than the other, it makes them look bad.
  • The co-hosts must be good at ad-libbing. A scripted conversation sounds stilted.

Roundtable Podcast

Roundtable podcasts are similar to interview podcasts but involve more people. One or two hosts present topics to a panel of guests, creating a multi-tiered conversation with multiple viewpoints and personalities. Ideally, the result sounds like an organic conversation amongst friends or colleagues.

Examples

Pros

  • Roundtable podcasts bring together people with a wide range of ideas and perspectives, giving listeners a comprehensive view on a particular subject.
  • Because there are more voices and discussion, there’s less pressure on the host to carry the conversation.
  • By hosting multiple thought leaders, you build authority in your podcast’s niche. Listeners admire your ability to bring together people they respect.
  • Hosting different lineups of people magnifies the reach of your podcast as your guests share the episode with their followers and friends.

Cons

  • Juggling multiple guests’ calendars can make panel podcasts difficult to schedule. You need to be very organized and coordinate episodes weeks (sometimes months) in advance.
  • With so many voices in the room, it can at times be difficult to keep order. Arguments and fast-paced conversations between many people are interesting when they can be seen, but often become confusing and garbled in audio form. You must maintain command of the room and keep control of the conversation.
  • The technical setup, whether it’s in a studio or remotely connecting several guests, is more complicated with more people.

Nonfiction Podcast

Also known as documentary podcasts, these storytelling podcasts are immersive narratives about real-life events. They’re often heavily produced with music, tight editing, and multiple interviews that create an immersive experience. These educational podcasts can range from in-depth sagas to true crime stories to everyday news.

Examples

Pros

  • The best storytelling podcasts are tightly scripted, giving you complete control over the production and the listener’s experience. There are no surprises or curveballs during recording or editing.
  • There are thousands upon thousands of stories to tell, giving you a seemingly endless list of topics to choose from.
  • Nonfiction podcasts are highly addictive for people who want to dive deep on a specific individual or topic.

Cons

  • All information must be 100% accurate, so your research needs to be all-encompassing and airtight. Any error will create a serious lack of trust with your audience.
  • Documentary podcasts have a much higher production value, so they often require more time and money to put together.
  • As opposed to a small podcast that requires one or two people, the best storytelling podcasts employ a team of editors, writers, producers, and hosts.

Fiction Podcasts

Podcasts are a fantastic medium for storytelling, so this podcast format is perfect for people who want to write fiction books or films. Fiction podcasts are similar to audiobooks, only they’re released on a regular schedule rather than all at once.

Examples

Pros

  • Listeners can enjoy stories while doing other activities, such as driving, working, mowing, and walking. Unlike with TV shows, books, and other storytelling mediums, consumers are not required to use their eyes to participate.
  • Once listeners become interested in a story, they’re likely to stick with the fiction podcast until the story’s conclusion. You can build loyal audiences that anxiously await each new episode.
  • Because it’s fiction, this podcast format requires little research or fact-checking.
  • Fiction podcasts are currently among the least common podcast formats, so there’s less competition.

Cons

  • Building an audience takes time, especially for new “authors.” You’ll need to be strategic and tireless in promoting and sharing your podcast.
  • Although the story is released in pieces, fiction podcasts require a lot of planning on the front end to maintain a cohesive plot throughout the life of the podcast. While you can make tweaks as episodes are released, the bulk of your story needs to be written before you start recording the first episode.
  • You’ll be competing with TV, movies, books, and YouTube as another storytelling medium.

Repurposed Content

Repurposed content podcasts take existing content and mold it to extend its value. Audio from a live event like a conference, comedy show, speech, or religious sermon can be repurposed into a podcast so people who weren’t present can experience it. Bloggers and writers can also read written content to offer it in a new form.

Examples

Pros

  • These podcasts require very little additional work. Often, all you need to do is upload recorded audio.
  • Because nothing new is being created, little to no additional budget is needed.

Cons

  • The audio quality might not be great, especially if it was recorded in a large auditorium. Applause or laughter may make the speaker difficult to hear at times.
  • Since the content wasn’t intended for a podcast, there may be confusing moments for a listener. If the speaker asks for a raise of hands or references a visual, podcast listeners will lose context.
  • The content isn’t original, and people have other ways of getting it.

How to Choose a Podcast Format

With all these different podcast formats, how do you choose which one is right for you? While you can employ multiple podcast structures with your format, it’s important to also create consistency so listeners know what to expect when they tune in. Answer the following questions to determine your direction.

What Do You Want Your Audience to Learn?

If you want your listeners to learn something new, consider a nonfiction story podcast or an interview podcast where you host experts in a particular field. If your purpose is to entertain, a fiction podcast or a conversation podcast might be more applicable.

What Are Your Strengths?

Do you have a lot of connections with influential, respected people? You can leverage those contacts by starting an interview or roundtable podcast. Are you a creative storyteller? Turn your ideas into a fiction podcast. Maybe you have the gift of gab and can talk all day. A solo podcast could be perfect for you!

What’s the Goal of Your Podcast?

Is your goal to sell podcast ads and make money? Are you looking to start a podcast that draws attention to your business? Do you just want to have fun and entertain? The goal of your podcast will influence how you structure it.

Interested in starting a podcast? Hurrdat Media can help you bring your podcast to life. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about our podcast production services and the Hurrdat Media Network!