Podcast Formats: A Walk Through Podcast Types

Solo show, interview, fictional storytelling, panel show... How to choose your perfect podcast format wisely? Read to learn!

Podcast Formats: A Walk Through Podcast Types

Just like movies or books, podcasts can be very diverse. But in what way? Podcasts are always about the spoken word, but how the word is conveyed depends on the podcast format.

Planning how you’re going to tell your audio story should be made in advance, prior to preparing the script and podcast recording. But which format to choose, and which types of podcasts even exist? This piece covers exactly that.

What is a podcast format?

Podcast format implies the wrapping of what you’re saying and how your episode is oragnised structurally. It’s not necessary, but it's recommended to maintain a single format throughout your entire show. You can switch between different formats from episode to episode; however, you should stick to a few (or better one) primary formats so that your listeners can know what they can expect from you next time.

Not convinced? Here are some more reasons why you should pick one format and stick to it.

Why sticking to one podcast format is important

That's preferable to attract listeners who are keen on this particular format. For instance, some people love listening to only interviews; others prefer non-fictional storytelling solo shows. To find a listener who will become your loyal fan, ensure your podcast is consistent in terms of its format.

Good to know: A slim majority of top podcasts feature a single host (58%), though the host often is joined by guests, according to the research

Another perk of sticking to one single format is that it saves you time for preparing and recording. If you record interviews all the time, the next interview becomes easier to prepare, as you already have interview script templates and a pile of questions. Jumping from one format to another takes more time to prepare your show and alter your current templates.

Besides, sticking to one or a couple of formats allows you to effortlessly invite guests and co-hosts, as it’s easy to explain to them what your show is about, and they know what to expect. Inconsistency might scare off a prominent expert or guest, as they might think your approach isn’t professional.

Last but not least is the perk that consistency contributes to is word of mouth. When people clearly know what your show is about, they can easily describe your show when sharing it on social media and with friends.

Test yourself: If you can quickly describe your podcast in one sentence, you’re on the right track.

Now let’s dive deeper into the formats that you can choose to wrap your show into.

6 podcast formats to pick

Solo podcast format

This is a more challenging format than you might think. If you consider choosing this format, you should know that the primary challenge is to talk alone for about 30-120 minutes, without any audio effects and anything actually engaging. Only your storytelling skills, voice, topic, and charisma can make your show interesting and worth subscribing to.

Solo show example — Hardcore History by Dan Carlin 

Choosing a podcast format hugely depends on what you're going to talk about. If you're thinking of a podcast that shares lectures, your expertise in some field, your thoughts on something, or discusses news, then a solo podcast might be a proper choice.

🔴 Solo podcast pros:

  • You have complete control over the content, tone, and direction of the show. This allows for consistency in messaging and style without having to coordinate with others.
  • You can record episodes on your schedule without needing to coordinate with co-hosts or guests.
  • Listeners often develop a strong personal connection with solo podcast hosts.
  • A solo podcast allows you to showcase your expertise on a specific subject. This can help you establish yourself as an authority in your field and attract an audience interested in your knowledge.
  • Producing a solo podcast can be more cost-effective than formats that involve multiple hosts or guests, as you don't need to invest in additional equipment or even payment for your guests.
  • Editing solo podcast episodes can be more straightforward since there's only one voice to edit and polish.

🔴 Solo podcast cons:

  • Keeping the audience engaged and interested throughout an entire episode can be challenging, especially when speaking alone for an extended period.
  • Solo podcasts lack the dynamic interaction and chemistry that can arise from conversations between multiple hosts or with guests.
  • Avoiding repetitive patterns and keeping the content fresh can require extra effort.
  • Solo podcasts often demand more extensive research, preparation, and scripting to ensure that episodes are well-structured and engaging.
  • Technical issues, such as stumbling over words or hesitations, can be more noticeable in a solo format.

Interview podcasts

This is one of the most popular podcast formats. If you launch a podcast to immerse yourself in the world of podcasts, try your hand at content creation, or engage in networking, this is the ideal format for you.

🔴 Interview podcast pros:

  • Interview podcasts allow you to bring a variety of perspectives to your show by inviting different guests. This can lead to richer and more well-rounded discussions.
  • By featuring guest experts in your field, you can leverage their knowledge and authority to provide valuable insights to your audience.
  • Guest interviews can increase listener engagement as they anticipate what insights or stories the guest will bring to the table.
  • Guests provide fresh content ideas and angles, making it easier to consistently produce interesting episodes.
  • Guests often bring their own followers and fans to your podcast, expanding your potential audience reach.

🔴 Interview podcasts cons:

  • Scheduling and coordinating with guests can be challenging, especially if they have busy schedules.
  • The quality of an episode can depend on the chemistry between the host and the guest. A lack of rapport or a guest who isn't well-prepared can result in a less engaging episode.
  • Preparing for guest interviews requires thorough research to ask informed questions and guide the conversation effectively.
  • The quality of an interview podcast can vary depending on the guest's speaking skills, knowledge, and ability to articulate their thoughts.
  • The success of the podcast can become heavily reliant on finding and booking interesting and engaging guests.
  • Guests might veer off-topic or provide content that doesn't align with the podcast's style or message.
  • Editing interview podcasts can be more time-consuming due to cross-talk, interruptions, or background noise.
Waveroom records your and your guests' tracks independently, making editing and post-production hassle-free. With local recording and storage that Waveroom provides, you get digital audio and video files of each participant in perfect quality.

Conversation podcasts with co-hosts

This format is slightly similar to interviews, but the difference is that a few people gather together and discuss a certain topic. Typically, such podcasts aren't heavily edited in post-production and are released as is, without cuts.

🔴 Conversation podcast pros:

  • The back-and-forth conversation between hosts creates a dynamic and engaging atmosphere that can captivate listeners.
  • Multiple hosts bring diverse viewpoints and experiences to the table, enriching the depth of discussions.
  • The conversational nature of the podcast allows for spontaneous reactions and unplanned moments, adding authenticity and relatability.
  • The natural banter and humour between hosts can make the podcast entertaining and relatable, even when discussing serious topics.
  • Conversation podcasts are relatively easy to produce since they often require minimal post-production editing and effects.
  • Unlike interview-based podcasts, conversation podcasts don't rely heavily on booking and coordinating with guests.

🔴 Conversation podcasts cons:

  • If the chemistry between the co-hosts is lacking, the discussions can fall flat.
  • Without a clear structure or plan, conversation podcasts can sometimes meander off-topic or lack a cohesive narrative.
  • In conversations with multiple hosts, certain voices might dominate, while others remain quieter, potentially leading to imbalanced discussions.
  • While post-production might be minimal, editing conversations to maintain flow and remove tangents can still be time-consuming.

Fictional storytelling podcast

Do you love Netflix or HBO drama stories? Well, you can create a similar show with your podcast! This is one of the most engaging (but complex) formats, sinply because people love stories.

A fictional storytelling podcast can be narrated with multiple voices or one and even have sound effects, tension, climax, and cliffhangers, just like any other dramatic piece does.

If you’re into scriptwriting or you create fiction stories, you can turn them into a podcast!

You can either make one episode = one story or one podcast = one story. 

🔴 Fiction storytelling podcast pros:

  • Fiction storytelling podcasts captivate listeners with immersive and compelling narratives, allowing them to get lost in the story world.
  • As a creator, you have the freedom to craft unique and imaginative stories, exploring a wide range of genres and themes.
  • Fiction podcasts can attract a diverse audience, from fans of specific genres to those looking for a novel audio-entertainment experience.
  • High production values, including sound effects and music, can enhance the immersive experience and add depth to the story.

🔴 Fiction storytelling podcast cons:

  • The success of a fiction podcast heavily relies on well-crafted writing. Poorly written scripts can lead to disengagement and negative reviews.
  • Maintaining a consistent release schedule for episodes can be challenging, especially if the writing and production process takes time.
  • Convincing voice acting is crucial for bringing characters to life.
  • Incorporating sound effects and music requires skill and time to achieve a seamless and immersive audio experience.
  • Editing fiction podcasts can be time-consuming, requiring careful attention to pacing, dialogue, and sound elements.
  • Developing multidimensional characters with relatable motivations and growth arcs is essential for a compelling story.

Non-fictional storytelling podcast

Non-fiction narrative podcasts, unlike fictional ones, tell stories that actually happened in history. If you don't like coming up with imaginary stories, you can use an event that has already happened somewhere with someone else.

🔴 Non-fictional storytelling podcast pros:

  • Non-fiction storytelling podcasts offer a rich source of educational content, allowing listeners to learn about real-life events, people, and concepts.
  • Sharing real-life experiences and events adds authenticity, making the content relatable and impactful for listeners.
  • The non-fiction genre encompasses a wide range of subjects, from history and science to personal experiences and investigative journalism.
  • Non-fiction storytelling podcasts can challenge preconceptions and offer fresh perspectives, encouraging critical thinking.

🔴 Non-fiction storytelling podcast cons:

  • In-depth research is essential to ensure accuracy and credibility, making the production process more time-consuming.
  • Presenting facts in an engaging manner without sounding overly didactic or dry can be a creative challenge.
  • Handling sensitive or controversial topics with sensitivity and objectivity is a challenge that requires ethical considerations.
  • While fiction podcasts offer more creative freedom, non-fiction stories must adhere to factual accuracy, which can limit narrative liberties.

Video podcast

A video podcast might contain a static background image, boomerang, gif, or a video recording of the host and their guests. Videos surely have their advantages, but video production costs more than regular podcasting as it requires more pieces of podcasting equipment. To turn your podcast into a video, you need to shell out on a camera, lighting, video editing software and have more time to distribute your content across video-focused platforms.

Video podcasts are ideal for demonstrating techniques, showcasing products, or displaying visual content.

We have already covered video podcasting in detail in our other piece, so make sure you take a look. 

🔴 Video podcast pros:

  • Video podcasting offers a visual dimension that enhances viewer engagement and understanding of content.
  • Video podcasts can be repurposed for various platforms, such as YouTube, social media, and websites, expanding your reach.
  • Video podcasts on platforms like YouTube can generate revenue through ads, sponsorships, and merchandise.
  • Video content often has higher sharing potential, helping to attract a broader audience.

🔴 Video podcast cons:

  • It requires more equipment, time, and technical expertise for shooting, editing, and uploading.
  • Video editing can be more time-consuming and intricate compared to audio-only podcasts.
  • Hosts and guests might need additional skills for on-camera presence, speaking naturally, and maintaining viewer engagement.

How to choose the right podcast format for your show

Having delved into the variety of podcast formats, you might be wondering which one to choose. Choosing the right podcast format for your show involves careful consideration of various factors to align with your content, goals, and audience.

Here's a super brief step-by-step guide to help you make an informed decision.

#1. Define your goals

Determine the purpose of your podcast. Are you looking to educate, entertain, inspire, or inform? Clarify your goals to set the tone for your podcast format.

#2. Mind content nature

Think of the type of content you want to create. If it's educational, interview-based, storytelling, or conversational, the format should align with your content style. Don't forget to assess your expertise and passion! Some formats require in-depth knowledge and storytelling skills, while others rely on hosting engaging conversations.

What's more, evaluate the resources at your disposal. Certain formats, like scripted storytelling, demand more preparation and production resources.

#3. Consider time commitment

Gauge how much time you can dedicate to podcasting. This is crucial because some formats, like interview shows or storytelling podcasts, require regular scheduling and coordination with guests. Think long-term. Choose a format that you can sustain and enjoy creating for an extended period.

#4. Production abilities

Consider your technical abilities. Video podcasts might demand more equipment and editing skills than audio-only formats.

#5. Test & iterate

You're not locked into a single format forever. Start with what you believe suits your show, but be open to adjusting based on listener feedback and your own experience. Consider creating a pilot episode in your chosen format. This will help you assess whether it aligns with your vision and resonates with your audience. Monitor how your audience responds to different formats. Engagement metrics can guide you in refining or maintaining your chosen format.

Podcast format: Choose wisely

Undoubtedly, the podcast format you opt for wields considerable influence over your show's trajectory. It serves as the compass directing your content creation, guest selection, and even the method by which you and your team collaborate to record and release episodes. While there's no mandatory rule binding you to the formats outlined earlier, their popularity is grounded in effectiveness. Thus, dedicating ample contemplation to this decision is paramount.

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