Podcast Pre-Production
20
min
July 12, 2023

All you need to know about podcast formats

Resound.fm Team

So, you want to start a podcast? 🎙️

Well, before anything else, you need to choose your format. It's gonna shape the whole vibe of your show. 

A podcast format is like having a blueprint that can transform your show into an immersive experience and make listeners go, "Wow, this is awesome!" 🎧

Figuring out the best format for your podcast is the first critical step you must make while starting a podcast. Think of it as setting the stage for your show. However, with countless options available, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the choices. 

In this blog, we'll delve deep into several podcast formats, helping you discover the perfect fit for your show. 

So, let's jump right in! 

What are podcast formats?

Think of the format of a podcast as its unique personality. It's like the style and structure that gives the show its distinct flavor and determines how the content is presented to listeners. 

Here are a few formats you'll often come across: 

1. Interview 

2. Cohosted 

3. Monologue (aka solo podcast) 

4. Narrative nonfiction (aka editorial podcast) 

5. Narrative fiction (aka podcast theater) 

6. Panel (aka roundtable) 

And these are just a few examples! There are even more unique and innovative podcast formats out there that cater to different interests and tastes.

Let's take a closer look at each format, so you can pick the best format that suits you.

1. Interview

The interview podcast format is incredibly popular, offering fascinating conversations between hosts and guests for your audience to enjoy. It serves as a window into the minds of experts, celebrities, and intriguing personalities, allowing hosts to curate a blend of knowledge and entertainment. 

By tuning in, listeners gain exclusive access to unique perspectives, insider tips, and personal anecdotes directly from remarkable guests, making the interview podcast a valuable source of inspiration and entertainment.

Pros

1. Less editing is needed because conversations flow naturally, keeping the authenticity intact.

2. Your show gains exposure to a new audience since guests often share their appearance with their fans. 

3. Asking guests to be on your show is a great way to expand your network (people are more likely to say yes to talking with you if you have something to give them).

Cons

1. It's a trendy format, so making your show unique and stand out from the crowd can be challenging.

2. Scouting for new guests every time is no walk in the park! It's a real challenge that demands a lot of time and effort.

What is the interview podcast format best for?

The interview podcast format is the best format for you if you’re aiming for expert insights, variety and diversity, networking, engaging conversations, and audience interaction. 

Examples of the interview podcast format

Here are a few interview podcasts to get you inspired.

1. Song Exploder

Image Source: Song Exploder

Song Exploder is a podcast hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway, where musicians reveal how they made their songs, explaining the sounds and ideas behind them.

2. Fresh Air

Image source: Fresh Air

Fresh Air, the Peabody Award-winning NPR podcast, features Terry Gross as the host, who conducts engaging interviews with diverse guests, asking thought-provoking questions and garnering insightful answers.

3. How I Built This

Image source: How I Built This

In each episode of How I Built This, Guy Raz interviews renowned entrepreneurs who openly share their experiences of building successful brands.

2. Cohosted

A cohosted podcast is when two or more hosts lead the show to create an engaging podcast experience! 

Having multiple hosts gives a fresh perspective and liveliness to your show. You can engage in lively discussions, share insights, and add your unique personalities to the mix.

But it's not just about the content. The chemistry between cohosts is key. Your banter, jokes, and camaraderie create a sense of familiarity and make listeners feel like they're part of the conversation.

Pros

1. With a cohost, you can divide and conquer tasks like research, editing, and promotion, making everything easier to handle. 

2. Your listeners will love the sense of belonging a cohosted podcast brings, making them feel like part of an entertaining and friendly group. 

Cons

1. It's crucial for both hosts to be on the same page regarding the purpose of each episode. If you don't agree, conflicts may arise, and the overall message could become confusing. 

2. Editing becomes a bit more challenging with two voices to balance and synchronize. It may require extra effort and attention to detail to get it just right. 

What is the cohosted podcast format best for?

The cohosted podcast format is perfect for various purposes such as engaging conversations, diverse expertise,  shared hosting duties, chemistry between the hosts, and entertainment value.

Examples of the cohosted podcast format

1. SmartLess

Image source: Smartless

SmartLess is a podcast where Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett connect with guests, share stories, and have spontaneous, hilarious conversations that leave you in stitches.

2. Borderline Salty

Image source: Borderline Salty

Carla Lalli Music and Rick Martinez host Borderline Salty, a weekly podcast where they share cooking tips, solve culinary challenges, and inspire listeners to become better cooks.

3. Office Ladies

Image source: Office Ladies

Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey host Office Ladies, where they actively break down episodes, sharing exclusive behind-the-scenes stories that offer unique insights from their firsthand experience.

3. Monologue (aka solo podcast)

A monologue podcast is like a one-person show. It is just the host, the mic, and an eager audience waiting to hear what the host has to say.

You get to share your thoughts, ideas, stories, or expertise with your audience uninterrupted. Unlike podcasts with multiple hosts or guests, it's all about your voice and storytelling skills captivating the audience. You have complete control over each episode's content, pacing, and tone, creating an intimate and personal listening experience.  

It's a format that lets you express yourself directly and leave a lasting impact. 

Pros

1. Solo podcasts are easy to produce since you don't need to rely on the availability of guests or cohosts. 

2. Solo podcasts provide an intimate experience, allowing you to connect with listeners on a personal level. 

3. You have complete control over scripting and editing, allowing you to shape episodes as you envision them. 

Cons

1. It gets exhausting to speak for extended periods in solo podcasts. 

2. It can get challenging to keep solo podcasts interesting and engaging for listeners. 

What is the monologue/solo podcast format best for?

 The monologue/solo podcast format is best for personal reflection, creative expression, thought leadership, personal branding, connecting with listeners, and inspirational talks.

Examples of the monologue/solo podcast format

1. You Must Remember This

Image source: You Must Remember This

Karina Longworth hosts You Must Remember This, a podcast that uncovers the hidden and forgotten stories from Hollywood's first century.

2. Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

Image source: Hardcore History

Journalist Dan Carlin hosts Hardcore History, captivating millions of listeners with its unique blend of dramatic storytelling, masterful narration, and thought-provoking exploration of intriguing historical questions.

3. The Lazy Genius

Image source: The Lazy Genius

Kendra Adachi, host of The Lazy Genius, guides you to become a genius in the things that matter while adopting a relaxed attitude towards the things that don't.

4. Narrative nonfiction (aka editorial)

The narrative nonfiction podcast format is like a fusion of storytelling and real-life facts, creating a captivating podcast experience for your audience.  

The host weaves together interviews with experts, witnesses, or even the people directly involved in the story. They also sprinkle in archival audio recordings, sound effects, and cool music to make it more immersive.

Behind the scenes, you, as the host, would need to do a lot of research and investigative journalism to give your listeners accurate and well-rounded accounts of real events, historical moments, or personal stories. The goal is to inform and entertain your audience by presenting complex topics that are easy to understand and keep them hooked. 

Pros

1. You have total creative control and freedom to tell your story your way.

2. You can mix different audio elements to shape your narrative, like interviews, music, archival sounds, and more.

Cons 

1. Researching, writing a script, editing, and adding sound design and music are time consuming and require experience or money to outsource. 

2. Editing this format is challenging, as choosing what to include or leave out can be tricky. 

What is narrative nonfiction podcast format best for?

The narrative nonfiction/editorial podcast format is best for storytelling, providing immersive experiences to listeners, informing and educating, and blending nonfiction and fiction.

Examples of narrative nonfiction podcast format

1. Serial

Image source: Serial

Sarah Koenig hosts Serial, an investigative journalism podcast that unravels gripping nonfiction stories across multiple episodes.

2. Radiolab

Image source: Radiolab

Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich host Radiolab, where captivating investigations merge sounds, stories, and the collision of science, culture, and wonder to engage curious listeners.

3.  Hidden Brain

Image source: Hidden Brain

Shankar Vedantam hosts Hidden Brain, revealing the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape choices, and influence relationships through science and storytelling.

5. Narrative fiction (aka podcast theater)

Narrative fiction podcasts are like audio dramas, where listeners can experience the story unfolding through multiple episodes.  These podcasts often combine elements of storytelling, acting, and sound effects to deliver a captivating and cinematic experience. 

As the host, you set the stage, introduce the story and characters, and provide context and commentary along the way. Tension, climaxes, and cliffhangers add an extra layer of excitement to the narrative, keeping listeners hooked episode after episode. 

Pros

1. The narrative fiction podcast format offers a unique advantage as it is less common, resulting in reduced competition for creators.

2.This format can hook listeners, keeping them engaged and eager for more.

Cons

1. Producing a podcast theater podcast can be challenging and time-consuming, requiring significant effort and dedication.

2. Due to the narrative unfolding across multiple episodes, careful planning and pre-production are necessary, requiring creators to map out the entire season in advance.

What is narrative fiction podcast format best for?

The narrative fiction podcast format is best for  fiction writers, voice actors and sound designers, long-form storytelling,  creating unique content,  building suspense, and creative individuals.

Examples of narrative fiction podcast format

1. Welcome to Night Vale

Image source: Welcome To Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale enthralls listeners as it portrays a desert town plagued by supernatural occurrences and government conspiracies with dark humor and surrealism.

2. Alice Isn’t Dead

Image source: Alice Isn't Dead

Alice Isn't Dead chillingly grips listeners as a truck driver embarks on a search for her supposedly deceased wife, unraveling a sinister supernatural conspiracy in the process.

3. Limetown

Image source: Limetown

Journalist Lia Haddock leads the investigation into the disappearance of over 300 people from a research facility in Limetown, uncovering secrets and conspiracies.

6. Panel (aka roundtable)

The panel podcast format is where you invite multiple participants to dive deep into a specific topic and share their expertise and opinions. As the host, you guide the conversation and keep things flowing smoothly.  

Whether it's tech, politics, sports, or anything else you're passionate about, the panel format lets you bring together diverse perspectives to create an engaging and dynamic discussion. 

Pros

1. Having a cohost makes podcasting simpler because you can share the workload and keep the conversation engaging.

2. Each episode has different opinions and valuable ideas, making your content more exciting and informative.

Cons

1. Coordinating guests is challenging.

2. Managing talk time for each panelist gets tricky.

What is the panel podcast format best for?

The panel format is best for discussing current events, technology trends, politics, pop culture, sports, and more, presenting diverse perspectives and lively discussions, and in-depth exploration of a subject.

Examples of panel podcast format

1. Political Gabfest

Image source: Political Gabfest

Political Gabfest, featuring Washington journalists Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz, captivates listeners with informal discussions, making it a must-listen for political enthusiasts.

2. The Panel

Image source: The Panel

The Panel presents diverse panelists from various viewpoints, along with expert phone guests.

3. This Week In Tech

Image source: This Week In Tech

This Week In Tech brings together leading tech experts for a discussion on the latest trends in technology.

Bonus formats

Here are three additional podcast formats for you.

1. Limited-run series

A limited-run podcast series tells a specific story or explores a particular topic, but it's not an endless journey.  It's like a mini-series for your ears, giving you a complete podcast experience in a shorter time frame. ⏳It’s great for listeners who are short of time.

Examples - Morning Cup Of Murder, Up First

2. Repurposed content

A repurposed content podcast format involves reusing existing content, like 📝 blog posts or  interviews, and converting it into an audio format for podcast episodes. It allows creators to use their existing material and reach a new audience through a different medium.

Examples: Ted Radio Hour, The Moth

3. Experimental

An experimental podcast is a creative audio production that pushes boundaries, using unconventional storytelling techniques and unique formats to engage and captivate listeners. It aims to deliver an immersive and thought-provoking experience. 

Examples: Sleep and Relax ASMR, ASMR Rain Recordings

3 Reasons you need to pick a podcast format

Picking a podcast format is necessary because it helps you define your podcast's structure, style, and content. It gives you a clear direction and framework to create episodes that effectively engage your audience and deliver your message. 

Here are a 3 reasons why picking a podcast format is essential:

1. A format creates consistency

A consistent format gives listeners a familiar experience and helps build connections. Whether it's solo talks, interviews, or storytelling, sticking to a format makes your audience feel at home and keeps them coming back for more.

2. A format simplifies pre-production

Having a predetermined format simplifies the pre-production process. By structuring your episodes in advance, you can plan content, prepare questions, and outline key topics more efficiently. This saves time and reduces stress, allowing you to focus on delivering high-quality episodes.

3. A format is familiar to listeners

Utilizing a recognized format provides a proven foundation for a captivating show. Following best practices and techniques can enhance your content's impact and maintain your audience's attention throughout each episode.

How to pick the best format for your podcast

Ask yourselves the following questions before picking the best format for your podcast.

1. Why are you podcasting? (purpose)

Determine if it's for entertainment, education, inspiration, interviews, storytelling, or discussions. Your purpose shapes your format. 

2. Who are you speaking to? (target audience)

Consider their interests, preferences, and demographics. Understand your audience to choose a format that resonates with them.

3. What type of content will you create? (content style)

Solo shows, interviews, storytelling, or scripted narratives? Define your content style to match it with the right format. 

4. How often can you release episodes? (frequency)

Evaluate your time, resources, and commitment. Choose a format that suits your capacity to consistently produce content. 

5. How long should your episodes be? (episode duration)

Consider your audience's preferences and content delivery. Shorter episodes (15-30 mins) or longer discussions (60+ mins)? 

6. How many hosts will you have? (hosts)

Decide if you want varied perspectives or a focused approach. Cohosts add variety, while a single host creates focus. 

7. Do you want active audience participation? (engagement)

Invite questions, call-ins, or user-submitted content. Interaction enhances engagement and makes your podcast interactive. 

8. How will you share and promote your podcast? (distribution and promotion)

Consider platforms and social media. Ensure your format aligns with your marketing and distribution strategy. 

By answering these questions, you'll choose a format that aligns with your purpose, connects with your audience, matches your content style, and fits your logistics. 

Find you winning move

When it comes to podcasting, selecting the right format is a decision that should not be taken lightly. 🎧

We've covered various podcast formats in this blog, each catering to different interests and preferences. Now, it's your time to make the right choice.

Consider the goals of your podcast and the type of content you want to create when selecting the format that best suits you. Each format has pros and cons, so weighing them against your preferences, resources, and target audience is essential. 

Remember to stay true to your unique style and make your podcast stand out in the crowded podcasting landscape. So, take the time to explore different podcast formats and find the one that best aligns with your vision.

Once you’ve chosen your format, check out our free podcast script templates to start planning your first episode. 

Resound is the ideal option if you're searching for a simple solution to refine your podcast! Our intuitive platform makes editing seamless, empowering you to effortlessly enhance audio quality and infuse your episodes with a professional touch. 

Take a plunge into the dynamic world of podcasting and explore a variety of formats that match your individual style. The possibilities are boundless, whether you prefer an engaging interview format, a gripping storytelling approach, or a spirited panel discussion. 🎤

Make your show an immersive experience with resound and make waves in the podcasting world!

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Resound.fm Team
Resound's team is building the future of podcast editing: An AI podcast editing app for creators. Here at Resound we're writing about the creative process to help content creators thrive. Picture is Ernst Chladni, the inspiration for our brand. Hear his story at resound.fm/about
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