Have you thought about the actual format for your podcast? Your format determines how your show is structured and will inform your recording process and help you answer some important questions. How much do you need to prepare for each episode? Do you need a script? How often should you record, and how flexible can your schedule be? Choosing a format will help answer these questions. The main types of formatting include:
- Non-fiction storytelling
- Fiction storytelling (sometimes called podcast theater)
You always want to feel like you can be flexible with your podcast, but also want to follow a basic format so that your audience knows what to expect. You want your listeners to be able to easily describe your show with one of the above formats.
For example, if your show features an educational piece one week, but centers on fictional storytelling the next, it’ll be harder to gain traction because your audience will be confused as to what your podcast is about. On the other hand, if you provide educational information in one episode and feature an interview with an expert the next, it will fit seamlessly into your content flow. Your format should support your overall message and goals, so take time to consider which format is best for you.
The interview is a well-known podcasting format, typically consisting of a host or hosts (the interviewer) and a new interviewee each episode. Examples include Armchair Expert, The Joe Rogan Experience, and The Goal Digger Podcast. These guests serve to open your audience to a new perspective via their expertise in a given area or their unique life experiences. They also provide a great way to give your listeners fresh content each episode.
Additionally, interviews allow you to reach another person’s audience in a related field. The larger the network your guest has, the more potential listeners you’ll have access to in cross promotional efforts. Keep in mind that researching and scheduling interviews takes time, and balancing guests’ schedules can be a tricky part of this format.
Conversational podcasts are often co-hosted by two people and have the unstructured feel of a chat between friends. If your hosts have good chemistry, these podcasts are fun to listen to and make your audience feel personally connected to you. Chances are, your audience is tuning in more because they enjoy listening to you rather than the information you provide. In other words, conversational podcasts rely a lot on your hosts’ personalities. Examples include My Favorite Murder, 2 Dope Queens, and Your Mom’s House.
Educational shows can have various hosts and are typically more structured than the conversational format, which simply focuses on two or more people discussing a topic. Educational podcasts feature specific lessons or deep dives into a particular concept with each episode, with the goal of teaching listeners something new. Examples include TED Talks Daily, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Duolingo. This format greatly appeals to the curious listener who constantly wants to learn more and allows them to turn their commute or workout into productive time.
The solocast focuses on the podcast host: it’s just you and your audience. Solocasts can be great to establish yourself as an expert in a field and to build a deep relationship with your audience, plus it’s easier to edit one voice than edit multiple voices. Another advantage to the solocast is that you’re not relying on anyone else, and you can record whenever works best for you.
On the flip side, since there is no one else to rely on, as a solocast host all of the content of your episode has to come from you. This feels daunting to some and thrilling to others, so ask yourself how you feel to determine if this format is right for you. Some podcasters choose to sprinkle in a few solocast episodes among their interview podcasts, like Rise with Rachel Hollis. Other examples include On Purpose with Jay Shetty and The Garyvee Audio Experience.
A nonfiction storytelling format shares true stories, allowing you as a host to become a reporter and dig into the facts and details of a story. A popular example of this is the true crime genre, often based on in-depth investigations of complex, real-life crimes. Popular examples of non-fiction storytelling podcasts include Serial, Dirty John, and This American Life. Listeners often find this format addicting, which is great for you as the host.
Similarly, fictional storytelling podcasts, also called podcast theater, provide the host or hosts a creative outlet to share their work with the world outside of written or video media. Both storytelling formats allow you to share your passion and curiosity around a specific subject with the world while connecting with others who share your interest and enjoy the way you tell the story. These can be done either as a solocast with one host telling the story, or in a conversational format adding commentary and different characters.
There are fewer barriers to entry than writing a book or making a movie, which makes this format appealing to creatives. However, this format requires a full script and potentially hiring voice actors, which takes a lot of time. If you’re drawn to this format, take the time to properly plan to set yourself up for success. Examples include Welcome to Night Vale and Homecoming.
Need more information before you can choose which podcast format is best for you? Check out our Idea course to explore it further!