How do you structure your podcast and what is a show format? A format is the way that you keep your content organized and consistent. Without one, your show might seem a little random and disjointed. Sticking to a format is the key to retaining your audience, and easing your production workflow. In this post, I’m going to teach you how to utilize the six podcast show formats and cover what which format works best for different types of content.
If you’re more the listening type, I cover this topic in episode 3 of my podcast, Clipped.
Don’t Keep Your Audience Guessing
Your audience will come to expect that your podcast is more or less the same each week. Obviously, it would feel odd to your listeners if one week you went on a rant, the next week you interviewed someone, the following episode you did a Q&A, and then maybe had your buddies on to shoot the shit and have some beers.
It’s fine to add in new ideas or segments here and there, but, for the most part, you’ve gotta stick to a format. Confusing your listeners will lead to them unsubscribing, and maybe leaving a bad review.
Consistency Is Comforting
Every day of the week there are various podcasts that I listen to. I expect them to be similar to the way they were the previous week, and even the week prior to that. It’s almost like the hosts have built a special connection with their audience. I expect a certain feeling or emotion, or maybe to learn something new from the shows that I listen to each week. It’s in my schedule, it’s part of my weekly routine. I’m so used to having that consistency, that when my favorite podcasters take a break, I get a little bummed.
Do you ever feel this way?
The Six Podcast Formats
For the sake of simplicity, I’ve put together a list of the six main podcast show formats. Utilizing one of these consistently will help your stay on track with your podcast.
The Interview Format
This is probably the type of podcast people are most familiar with. It’s where the host, and or co-host sit down with somebody and interview them. They have a discussion and get a dialogue going. The host(s) are likely to ask questions about the guest’s area of expertise. The guest almost always has influence in their industry.
The Roundtable Format
In my opinion, this is a more casual approach to doing a podcast. It’s when a group of people has a discussion, and they throw it back and forth to each other. Sometimes there’s a moderator, sometimes not. It’s usually a looser format, where everyone gets a chance to speak and build off what the other people are saying.
For example, last season the Rams won the Superbowl. For several weeks after the game, you’d see/hear commentators, broadcasters, and podcasters discuss the game. They talked about interesting plays, who the MVP was, their projections for next season, and more. This is an example of a roundtable. It can be serious, or it can be fun. But, the idea is that several people discuss a topic, and possibly answer questions from a moderator, a fan, or the media.
Realtime with Bill Maher is another great example of the roundtable format. Several people sit around in a loosely structured environment and have a discussion. They interject with ideas, jokes, anger, and different philosophies.
The Roundtable on NPR is also a solid example of how to make this type of content.
The Instructional Format
As in the title, these podcasts are gonna teach you a specific skill.
There are a ton of podcasts out there about trading and investing in crypto. I have a couple of small crypto baggies myself, but that’s a conversation for a different place and time.
Check Out Crypto 101
Maybe you’re into cooking. There are lots of great cooking podcasts that are going to teach you recipes, help you on the grill, show you how to bake, etc…
Check out Recipe Club
These are structured podcasts with the goal of educating and informing the audience.
The Solocast Format
In a solocast, a podcaster could be educating somebody, they could be doing something instructional, they could be telling jokes, talking about their personal life, solving problems, and/or talking about any number of things. As long as you’re doing it SOLO, it’s a solocast.
I love when Theo Von, host of This Past Weekend, does solo episodes. It’s the right mix of humor and heart.
In any case, the success of these shows largely depends on the host. If people fall in love with a host’s personality, the show has a larger shot at being successful. If people don’t latch onto who YOU are, it’s hard to be successful in this format.
The Narrative Format
Typically you’re gonna find these types of podcasts being released by the big production houses.
All the True Crime podcasts are good examples of narrative shows. These podcasts often include interviews with journalists, family members of victims, and eyewitnesses. These interviews are strung together with narration, recorded by the host of the show. The host’s job is to navigate the listener through the story while weaving together the interviews into one cohesive piece. NPR does a great job of this, as well as Gimlet. In fact, one of my favorite narrative podcasts of all time is season one of StartUp. I also really like season one of To Live and Die in LA.
You’re gonna need a team of 4-5 people to pull off this format. You’ll need 1-2 producers, a host, an advanced sound engineer, a scriptwriter, and maybe a researcher, or fact checker. It’s a ton of work to make a narrative podcast. It also takes a decent budget. It truly is a group effort.
The Scripted Format
These podcasts are scripted, just like a TV show or movie. Someone has to write a script, and voice actors have to be cast. Lately, some of the bigger scripted shows are even casting union actors. These podcasts don’t have hosts, the actors play characters, and the scripted is acted out in an audio-only format.
Scripted podcasts aren’t really for people that want to be podcasters. They’re for writers. They’re a great way to get a script off the ground.
Are you a writer trying to break into TV and Film?
Have you tried writing a story built for a podcast?
Scripting a podcast might be a slightly easier barrier to entry, than TV/Film. In addition, if the podcast you write gains some traction, the second season could get picked up by a large production house, or even a film studio. There are currently a couple of dozen Wondery podcasts that are being repurposed for TV. Even if that doesn’t happen, you can begin to build your brand as a writer through scripting podcasts. Studios love when you have a proof of concept and a little bit of a following. Writing a successful podcast gives you leverage and negotiating power as you try to break into TV/Film.
The Wrap Up
Hopefully, this episode gave you some insight into the different types of podcast formats and provided you with some insight into what format works best for the type of content you want to create.
Are you having trouble getting your podcast off the ground? Then you need The Four Pillars of Podcasting ebook. This ebook breaks down the entire podcasting process into four pillars: pre-production, production, post-production, and launch. By reading through it and mastering each pillar, you’ll be fully equipped with what it takes to launch a successful podcast. Be sure to grab your copy today!
If you guys have any podcast questions, shoot me an email at email@example.com. I love connecting with you guys. Shoot me your podcasting idea/podcast name and I’ll give you some honest feedback.
Check out The Podcast Haven if you want to learn more about my podcast production company and the services we offer.
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