How To Choose The Right Podcast Format

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7 Popular Podcast Formats and How to Choose the Right One for You

You’re about to embark on an exciting journey in the world of podcasting. There are so many reasons why are podcasts so popular, With the podcast industry’s explosive growth and popularity, there has never been a better time to start your own show.

But with so many podcasts out there, how do you ensure that yours stands out from the rest? One of the key factors is choosing the right podcast format.

Podcast formats refer to the structure and style of your show, and there are many different options to choose from. Each podcast format has its own unique set of pros and cons, and it’s important to choose the one that best suits your content, audience, and personality.

In this post, I’ll outline seven popular podcast formats to help you decide which one is right for your show.

With thousands of new podcasts launching every day, it’s essential to make sure your show stands out from the crowd. One of the best ways to do this is by choosing a podcast format that suits your content and style.

why are podcasts so popular

7 Different Podcast Formats

There are many podcast formats to choose from. In this post, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of the seven most common podcast formats;

  1. Interview format
  2. Solo podcast
  3. News and current events shows
  4. Storytelling podcast shows
  5. Conversational podcasts
  6. Educational shows and
  7. Panel interview shows

By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of which is the best podcast format for you and your show. So, let’s get started!

Are you ready to take the next step in launching your own podcast?

Enroll in my course today, “How To Start A Podcast: Get your voice out & share your story.”

Niall Mackay, The Podcast Guy

Podcast Format #1 – Solo Podcasts

A solo podcast obviously has just one host and is not a common podcast format due to the difficulty of hosting a show on your own.

One of the main benefits of a solo podcast format is the amount of creative control and flexibility you have. As a solo host, you get to choose your own topics, format, length of each episode, and how frequently you release each new episode.

This means that you can create a show that truly reflects your unique style and interests.

However, there are downsides to using a solo format. One major challenge is the need for strong solo performance skills, as you’ll need to be able to keep your audience engaged and interested for the entire podcast episode without the help of a co-host or guest.

Additionally, since as a solo host, you’ll be the only one generating content, you may find yourself limited in terms of the types of topics you can cover in a solo episode.

As podcasting expert Jenna Spinelle notes,

“Solo shows are a great way to get started in podcasting because you don’t have to worry about coordinating schedules or managing different personalities. However, they can be challenging because it’s just you talking for an extended period of time. You have to find ways to keep the conversation interesting and engaging.”

So, if you’re confident in your solo performance skills and have a clear vision for the type of content you want to create, then a solo podcast format could be a great fit for you!

5 Popular Solo Podcasts

Here are the top solo podcasts:

  1. The Rob Auton Daily Podcast
  2. The Sarah Silverman Podcast
  3. Hardcore History
  4. Live From the 405
  5. 60 Songs That Explain The 90s
Solo Podcasts

Podcast Format #2 – Interview Podcasts

Interview podcast formats are one of the most popular podcast formats. In interview format podcasts the host invites guests to share their knowledge, experience, or perspective on a specific topic in the podcast episode.

These allow listeners to gain insights from experts or industry leaders, making them a valuable source of information.

The key to a successful interview podcast is guest research. As the host, you need to research your guests thoroughly and come up with a list of relevant interview questions to ask during the interview.

It’s also important to create a comfortable and open atmosphere to make your guests feel at ease.

The benefits of an interview podcast format are numerous. You get to feature diverse content, as you can invite guests from different backgrounds and industries.

Plus, you get to network with people from various fields, which could help you expand your own knowledge and connections.

As one podcast expert puts it,

“interview podcasts are great because they allow you to connect with people you might never have a chance to meet in real life.”

However, there are also potential drawbacks to the interview podcast format. One of the biggest challenges is scheduling.

Coordinating with guests can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially if you’re dealing with busy or high-profile individuals. You can also conduct an interview online using descript Zoom remote recording

Additionally, you may not have full control over the conversation, and your guests could take the discussion in unexpected directions.

As one podcaster advised me,

“be prepared for surprises and have a backup plan in case your guest goes off topic.”

My Top 5 Recommended Interview Podcasts

  1. The Diary of A CEO
  2. A Vietnam Podcast – I had to plug my own podcast!
  3. Beer Stories
  4. The Tim Ferris Show
  5. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
podcasting microphone and headphone for solo podcast

Podcast Format #3 – Conversational Podcasts

The conversational podcast format typically features two or more co-hosts engaging in an informal conversation about a particular topic or just having a chat.

In a co-hosted podcast format the hosts often have a shared interest or dynamic that can make for an enjoyable listen. It can be even more interesting if the two hosts aren’t on the same page and tell one story from two different perspectives.

But… I do not recommend ‘just having a chat’. To be successful your podcast must have a niche and your podcast episodes stick to this.

There are pros of a conversational format though, with one of the most significant being the relaxed and authentic vibe they give off. Listeners feel like they’re part of the conversation, which creates a more engaging experience.

The podcast host can share real-life events, and real life examples or tell an entire story related to the niche of the show.

A conversational format also provides a platform for hosts to showcase their personalities and can result in hilarious and spontaneous moments that keep listeners coming back for more.

As podcaster Daniel Kwan puts it, “The beauty of conversational podcasts is that it feels like you’re hanging out with your friends, even if you’ve never met them.”

conversation podcasts

There are further cons to consider as well. A key challenge is establishing a natural and balanced flow of conversation, as multiple voices can make it difficult to avoid talking over each other.

You can use your recording software, like Descript, to edit out competing voices if the co-hosts talk over each other.

In addition, finding chemistry with co-hosts and ensuring that everyone has equal airtime can also be a challenge. But, as long as hosts have a genuine interest in the topic they’re discussing and can strike a balance, a conversational podcast can be a great way to build a loyal following.

My Top 5 Recommended Conversational Podcasts

  1. Sounds Like A Cult
  2. Aged Like Milk
  3. Welcome To The OC
  4. Kill Tony
  5. The Read
conversational podcasting

Podcast Format #4 – Storytelling Podcast Format

Storytelling podcasts are like an audio drama, taking the listener on a journey through a carefully crafted story. They can range from a single episode to an entire series, to captivate the listener through immersive sound design and compelling storytelling.

A fictional story is told by weaving together different audio elements like voice actors, sound effects, and music to create a vivid and engaging story for the listener. As a new podcaster, you should learn more about elements of storytelling because narrative podcasts can be a great way to showcase your creativity and storytelling abilities.

One of the biggest pros of narrative podcasts is the potential for storytelling and engaging content. “Narrative podcasts allow you to create a world that your listeners can get lost in,” says podcast producer Emily Prokop. “By crafting a compelling narrative, you can keep your audience on the edge of their seat and coming back for more.”

However, one of the biggest cons of narrative podcasts is the need for advanced planning and production skills. “Narrative podcasts require a lot of work in terms of planning, writing, and post-production,” notes Prokop. “If you’re not comfortable with things like sound design and editing, this might not be the best format for you.”

Overall, narrative podcasts can be a great way to showcase your creativity and storytelling abilities, but they do require advanced planning and production skills. If you’re up for the challenge, this format can offer a truly immersive and engaging experience for your listeners.

Lately, I have been bingeing on the fiction storytelling podcast format.

Here are my 5 favorites

  1. Homecoming – Favourite fictional story podcast
  2. Case 83
  3. Sandra
  4. Batman: The Audio Adventures
  5. Limetown
Homecoming | Podcast by Gimlet Media

Podcast Format #5 – News-Based Podcasts

News-based podcasts are a popular format that focuses on current events and news stories. These podcasts are typically hosted by journalists or experts in the field and provide listeners with insightful analysis and commentary on the latest news developments.

News-based podcasts are often produced on a daily or weekly basis and cover a wide range of topics from politics and economics to science and culture.

The great advantage of news-based podcasts is the potential for timely and relevant content. Listeners can stay informed on the latest news and events from around the world, often with expert insight and analysis.

However, producing a news-based podcast can also be challenging. The fast-paced nature of news means that podcasts need to be produced quickly, often on a daily or weekly basis. This requires a lot of research, writing, and editing.

Additionally, because news stories can quickly become outdated, podcasts need to be careful to provide analysis and context that will remain relevant over time.

Despite these challenges, news-based podcasts can be a rewarding format for those who want to inform and engage listeners with the latest developments in the world.

5 Popular News-based podcasts

  1. The Daily from The New York Times
  2. Up First from NPR
  3. Today, Explained from Vox
  4. The Economist Radio (formerly known as The Economist podcast)
  5. CNN 10 (formerly known as CNN Student News)
The Daily from The New York Times

Podcast Format #6 – Panel Discussion Podcasts

A panel podcast typically feature multiple guests who discuss a specific topic or issue. Roundtable podcasts can be very engaging as they offer a variety of opinions and perspectives on a given subject.

A panel podcast often has a defined podcast structure, with the host moderating the conversation and guiding the discussion.

One of the pros of a panel podcast is the diverse range of opinions and expertise that they can offer. This format allows for a wide variety of viewpoints to be shared and discussed, which can be both informative and engaging for listeners.

Panel discussions are great for exploring complex topics or issues that require a lot of different perspectives to fully understand.

However, panel discussion podcasts can also have their drawbacks. Managing multiple voices and ensuring that everyone has a chance to speak can be a challenge for the host. Additionally, panel discussions can sometimes devolve into arguments or tangents, which can make the podcast feel disjointed or unproductive.

It’s also important to have a strong moderator who can keep the discussion on track and ensure that everyone has a chance to share their thoughts.

5 Popular Panel Discussion Podcast Formats

  1. The Guardian Football Weekly – Niall’s favorite!
  2. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: Ears Edition
  3. The Weeds
  4. FiveThirtyEight Politics
  5. The Intelligence
Panel Discussion Podcasts

Podcast Format #7 – Hybrid Podcasts

Hybrid podcasts are a unique and versatile podcast format that combines elements of multiple podcast types, such as interviews, solo segments, and conversational discussions. The beauty of this format lies in its flexibility and ability to switch between different styles seamlessly, creating an engaging and diverse listening experience.

With a hybrid podcast format, you can incorporate a range of topics, guests, and styles into your show, ensuring your audience never gets bored.

Hybrid podcasts are great for keeping your content fresh and interesting. By combining different formats, you can offer your audience something new and exciting with each episode.

Another advantage of the hybrid podcast format is the ability to experiment with different formats until you find the right mix for your show. Whether it’s adding solo segments to an interview show or incorporating conversational segments into a fiction podcast, the possibilities are endless.

However, it’s important to note that creating a successful hybrid podcast requires advanced planning and production skills. You must be able to seamlessly transition between different formats while maintaining a cohesive and engaging listening experience.

Hybrid podcasts require a lot of preparation and organization. You need to ensure each segment flows smoothly into the next and that the overall structure of the episode makes sense.

Overall, hybrid podcasts offer an exciting and dynamic format for podcasters who want to experiment with different styles and formats. With the right planning and execution, a hybrid podcast can take your show to the next level and keep your audience engaged for years to come.

5 Hybrid Podcasts

  1. Radiolab
  2. My Favorite Murder
  3. Stuff You Should Know
  4. Call Your Girlfriend
  5. The Daily Show Podcast Universe
My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

So Where Does True Crime Fit?

Are you a true crime junkie?

Then you’ve probably listened to at least one true-crime podcast. This popular genre usually follows a storytelling podcast format, with a focus on real-life cases of murders, disappearances, and other crimes.

True crime podcasts often feature in-depth research, interviews with experts and witnesses, and dramatic retellings of the crimes and investigations. Some podcasts may also include discussions on the criminal justice system and social issues related to crime.

So true crime podcasts can be a number of different podcast formats from a roundtable podcast to an interview podcast format.

If you’re thinking of starting your own true crime podcast, be prepared to spend hours researching and fact-checking, as well as finding a unique angle on the stories you want to cover.

5 True Crime Podcasts I’m Listening To Right Now

  1. The Trial
  2. The Frankston Murders
  3. Projet Unabom
  4. Faith On Trial: Hillsong
  5. Crimetown

How To Choose Your Podcast Format Summary

Choosing the right podcast format is crucial for a successful show. From solo podcasts to hybrid formats, each style has its own pros and cons. Solo podcasts offer creative control and flexibility but require strong solo performance skills. Interview podcasts offer diverse content and networking opportunities, but require scheduling and potential lack of control. Narrative podcasts offer engaging storytelling, but require advanced planning and production skills. Conversational podcasts offer a relaxed and authentic vibe, but require chemistry and balancing multiple voices. News-based podcasts offer timely and relevant content, but require fast-paced production and risk of becoming outdated. Panel discussion podcasts offer diverse perspectives and potential for debate, but require managing multiple voices and potential arguments. Hybrid podcasts offer flexibility, but require advanced planning and production skills. Remember to choose a format that suits your content and goals, and don’t be afraid to experiment and get creative.

Starting a podcast? Podcast Setup Ideas For Beginners On A Budget

Are you ready to take the next step in launching your own podcast?

My podcast course is here to guide you through the process, from choosing the right format to recording and editing your episodes. With a fun and informative approach, you’ll learn the skills and techniques you need to create a successful podcast that engages and entertains your audience.

Don’t let uncertainty hold you back any longer – sign up for my podcast course today and start sharing your unique voice with the world!

Niall Mackay, The Podcast Guy

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