Podcasting allows for endless creativity with dozens of ways to approach the show, but for a podcast to succeed, you need to have some sense of organization and consistency. Changing your show format every episode will confuse listeners and may make it difficult for you to establish a solid follower base. Not only will a consistent show format keep your listeners engaged, but it will help guide the show and keep you organized as you find your bearings in the world of podcasting. Once you’ve purchased affordable podcasting equipment and you’re ready to go, study six of the most popular podcast formats and opt for what interests you most before writing or recording your episodes.
Solo, Co-Host or Roundtable?
Before nailing down a format for the show, you need to decide on how to host the show. Running the podcast alone gives you complete creative freedom on guest choice and subject, but it can be much more difficult to keep the conversation engaging without another person to bounce off. Adding another person into the mix may also spark your creativity and lead you to test new formats or topics.
Co-hosted podcasts typically have two hosts who guide listeners through each episode, discussing or analyzing the content of the show. A podcast run as a roundtable has multiple hosts, though there is often a rotating cast of people with this type. For roundtables, it’s helpful to maintain some consistency with the presenters, whether a few of the hosts are always the same or the people that come and go make regular appearances, allowing the audience to get to know each person.
One of the most popular show formats for podcasts, the interview involves episodes during which the host or hosts sit down with guests to learn more about their life or business experience. This can be a really engaging type of podcast, especially if you’re able to connect with and feature popular guests. However, before your podcast gains traction, you probably won’t be able to snag high-profile guests, so you might have to get creative with who you invite on the show. Brainstorm a list of potential people whom your audience would be interested in and contact them before making any major plans for episodes. Typically, this format features a different guest every episode, but some common theme keeps the podcast driven and cohesive.
Conversation-based podcasts are difficult to do solo because, as the name suggests, the entire show is centered around a conversation. People tend to be attracted to this format because it can be like listening to friends have an interesting or entertaining discussion. Because of this, people also tend to create emotional connections to the hosts and occasional guests of the show. Conversational-style podcasts have a very laid-back feel because of the nature of the podcast. However, to keep the show unified, you should come up with some type of theme or consistent subject matter to talk about. Common topics for conversational podcasts are dating, sports or politics.
- Guest Panel or Group Discussion
Guest panels are focused on a group discussion between a combination of hosts and guests. This can be an interesting format because the hosts already have a developed chemistry that loyal listeners will appreciate and identify with, but the ever-changing list of guests can add a new element and new perspectives to the show each episode. To keep things fresh and interesting, every group panel should focus on a different topic but, again, your podcast will do best if each topic has an underlying theme. Politics and sports are other hot topics for panels, along with social justice issues or even reviews of TV shows or movies. Anytime you’re planning to incorporate multiple people into your show, you should find a quality microphone with the capability to clearly pick up audio. The further away guests are from the mics, the less comprehensible the audio will be, and listeners will be bored or confused easily.
- Nonfiction Storytelling
Think crime podcasts when it comes to nonfiction storytelling. Of course, there are many other types of nonfiction storytelling, but true crime podcasts have been one of the most popular in recent years. This makes it much more difficult to break into the genre, but you can use these podcasts as a model for how to run a nonfiction storytelling podcast. As with nearly every format, you need to implement some type of commonality with every story to hold the podcast together. Crime may be the most obvious instance, but there are examples of nonfiction storytelling on business owners or influential people, scientific discovery and much more. Narrow down your overall subject first and then begin seeking out stories to fill each episode.
- Fictional Storytelling
The format of this type of show is basically exactly the same as a nonfiction storytelling show aside from that the fact that these stories are fabricated. Both formats usually begin with an intro before launching into one or more stories. For the best chance at gaining a niche following, it’s a good idea to select one type of fiction—romance, horror, historical—though you could also theme each episode with a different type of fiction for variety.
- Mixed Content
Mixed content podcasts are a combination of any of the previously mentioned formats. This is a really great idea if you’re looking to incorporate multiple elements into your show and keep the audience entertained. Combining interviews with conversational podcasts or group discussions with fiction are commonly used tactics to create a hybrid format.
Before you can dive into creating a podcast, there are several ways you need to prepare. Though podcasting may seem easy, you need the right combination of guests, hosts, topics and good recording devices. Invest in an all-in-one podcasting bundle to get you started and then determine the format and subject of your podcast. Once you’ve nailed all this down, you can start experimenting with writing and recording your new podcast. As you get started, don’t let yourself get discouraged. It may take a few tries before you create something truly incredible.