Choosing a Podcast Format

Libsyn turquoise reading "Choosing a Podcast Format" and featuring a dark skinned woman inn a chair in front of a mic taking notes on a pad in her lap.

When you start thinking about your podcast format — what kind/style of podcast you would like to create — we recommend considering three things: established configurations, number of regular host/s and future evolution.  

In general, your podcast format should be reflective of subject and style. It should have room for you to explore all of the avenues/subtopics that your subject matter naturally offers. For instance, if your podcast is about the ubiquitous “True Crime,” you may want to interview people involved in a case, so it would be a natural fit for interviews and journalism. But what if you want to convey the drama/suspense of the crime? Then, maybe you step over to narrative nonfiction when telling the story. 

There are no real rules. Take the time to find the best fit for you and your subject matter.

Popular Podcast Formats

Here we offer a quick review of typical formats you might try. Bear in mind that your format will also affect your podcast equipment and studio needs. Agin, if you choose a comfortable format to start, you can always migrate as you get more confident! 

The types of podcast formats are many. As with most things podcasting, there is not one way to do it.

Choose a format that feels natural and inspiring. 

Some examples of popular podcast formats include:

  • Interview: questions and answers with one or more guests who have special knowledge, fame, or experience 
  • Panel discussion: conversation among a group 
  • Journalism: reporting on news in an area or field or covering a specific story
  • Storytelling: with one or more short pieces in a single episode or with a longer story told over several episodes 
  • Narrative nonfiction: audio documentary, typically spread over multiple episodes 
  • Narrative fiction: a fictional story told by one person or a cast of characters
  • Solo commentary: single person monologue or ad-lib 
  • Co-host show: two or more steady hosts discussing the subject matter of the show 

All of these formats have their merits. But one question (regardless of format) many find themselves asking is “Should I have a co-host?” Often two people decide to start a podcast together, so this is a non-issue, but what if you start solo and after a while feel like maybe you could use a partner? Or have somebody in mind?

Be a Star or Share The Stage — The Question of a Podcast Co-Host

Libsyn podcaster Ginger Campbell from Brain Science was asked what podcasting wisdom she would share with new podcasters upon her induction into the Podcasting Hall of Fame. 

“Get a co-host if you can. Having someone to share the load with will make podfading less likely.”

In essence, if you are ok with all the fame AND ALL THE WORK, keep your format solo. If you are more of a team player? Consider a co-host.

Tip:  Some solo or co-hosted podcasts have guest hosts to step in when episodes are not able to be recorded by the original host or co-host. You might want to consider who this might be early on.

Podcast Format Evolution

It can be helpful to focus on a single format to start, to develop a tone and style that works for you. Then, try combining formats, either within a single show or across episodes.

Say you begin doing solo commentary with just you and a mic and a set of headphones, but then decide to invite a guest to do an interview. Six months later, maybe you’re thinking you want to do an interview or panel discussion. 

Feel free to shake things up a bit, working your way to the more challenging many-person podcast, as well as slowly investing in the equipment you will need to host more people. 

Also, be sure to listen to audience feedback.

  • What format is getting the most listeners? 
  • Did you see a surge when you interviewed an expert in the field? 
  • Was it more fun for you? 

Whatever you do, don’t ever feel like you have to commit to the format you start off with. Podcasting is a marathon and sometimes, pivoting can be one of the best strategies you can implement!

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