The world of podcasting is always evolving. There are never ending opportunities to flex your creative skills and try something different—like a new format for your show.
When it comes to podcast formats, the sky's the limit. Don’t be afraid to experiment with something new and different, and try to think outside the box.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are five of the most common formats podcasters are using today. Whether your show is about finance, tech, or something else entirely, it’s always best to stick with a format that aligns with your podcast goals and captures the story you’re aiming to tell.
One of the most common podcast formats today is a good old-fashioned, interview-style show. In this format, typically one or two hosts will sit down with a different guest in each episode and ask them a series of questions about their background, story, area of expertise and any other topics the audiences find interesting.
Interview-style shows can range from tightly edited, polished and complete with host-read reflections recorded after the interview to more relaxed, off-the-cuff discussions with minimal editing.
No matter the style of editing you opt for, the interview format is one of the most popular options for podcasters today since featuring a new guest on each episode is a pretty turnkey way to produce interesting content for an entire season without getting too repetitive.
When it comes to branded podcasts, a hybrid Interview/Discussion podcast format is the most common episode style used by brands with 63% adopting this format.
While narrative-style shows take a bit more legwork upfront, they can make a big impact when well-executed. Typically, a narrative format consists of one or more hosts reading from a more structured script that’s been planned out in advance of the recording.
This format is all about great storytelling skills, so if you opt for a narrative podcast, you can really lean into emotive music, editing, language, and soundscapes.
Again, narrative-style shows tend to require more work upfront including lots of research and thoughtful writing, but the end result can really help to elevate your brand and wow your listeners. If you’re hoping to craft a powerful story that really moves your audience, this format would be your best bet.
Similar to narrative, documentary-style podcasts tend to incorporate multiple audio sources including news clips, interviews, and other videos.
This is a great option if you’re looking to tell a great story—whether it’s focused on the biography of a public figure, a well-publicized event, or some other personal interest story.
Taking a more journalistic approach, documentary-style podcasts are a great option if you’re hoping to add value to your audience by shedding light on an important cultural event while providing a source of education and entertainment.
Some podcasters prefer to keep their show casual and authentic by using the opportunity to simply riff on a topic of their choice. Typically off-the-cuff and not overly structured, solo monologue podcasts have the power to make a big impact on your audience because they give listeners a chance to really bond with the host and get to know them on a more personal level.
This podcast format is a great option for any podcasters who are confident in their speaking skills and are hoping to form an authentic bond with their audience.
You can also encourage listeners to write in with their questions and comments for the host to react to while recording, which makes for an even more intimate and interactive audio experience.
Host selection is key for this format. Since it’s just the host and the audience, you want to ensure that your listeners are able to build a bond with the host.
Finally, panel discussions can be another great option for podcasters who are hoping to create a more interactive, collaborative experience. Adding multiple voices into the mix allows for greater diversity and a broad range of opinions, perspectives, and expertise.
Typically, capping panel discussions at one host and three panel members will help to keep the episode organized and avoid any confusion for listeners. If you add too many panelists and listeners can’t differentiate voices, it can get frustrating to tune in to.
Try to select panel members who have established themselves as thought leaders in their field or have a strong online presence to draw in listeners. This is also a great tactic for added episode promotion. Rather than just having one guest sharing the episode to their network, you have multiple.
In conclusion, choosing the right format for your podcast is a key step in the process of building your show. To make sure you start your journey off on the right foot, here are a few more key things to think about:
Align your format with your topic. Finally, it’s always best to choose a podcast format that aligns well with the topics you’ll be covering. For example, a podcast about murder mysteries might be better suited to the documentary format rather than an interview style show. Of course, there are always exceptions to this, but this is another important consideration to keep in mind along the way.
Mackenzie Patterson is the Senior Producer & Content Strategist at Quill Inc, and a Toronto-based writer, and journalist. She's always exploring the latest movies, TV shows and wellness trends.