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What are the different types of podcast?

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Illustration of different types of podcast microphone

Which style is right for you?

If you’re thinking about starting a podcast but have no idea about the different types, here are a few of the most common ones…

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1. The Interview Podcast

As the name would suggest this is where you interview a different guest each week on your show.

Advantages of an interview podcast

It opens your show up to a new audience

If your guest shares the episode they were on across their social media profiles that opens your podcast up to a whole new set of ears.

Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about the experience you want to create for your guests.  Because people will always be more willing to share your episode if they had a great time.

It gives you access to more varied content

Instead of having sole responsibility for every last piece of content an interview show opens your podcast up to different opinions, stories, advice and expertise.

This provides a lot of variety for your audience and takes a lot of pressure off you.

You can do it from the comfort of your own home

All you need is a computer, a decent microphone, Skype and you’re ready to roll.

Recording your podcast with guests remotely also gives you more flexibility which means you might be able to attract international guests and that’s always a good thing.

How to record a podcast with people in different locations

Read

Disadvantages of an interview podcast

Booking guests can be difficult

When you’re starting out it can be hard to get guests to commit to coming on a show they’ve never heard of or that doesn’t have an audience or a proven reputation.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and all you need is that first guest to entice the next one.  But this is something to keep in mind if you’re planning to start your show soon.  It might take a while to get enough guests locked in to have a decent amount of content.

You have to work around other people’s schedules

Finding a time to record can be difficult, particularly if you’re trying to book someone who’s really busy.  That’s why you need to be flexible.

You can’t say “Hey I’d love to get you on the show but I can only do half an hour on Friday one week from now”…unless of course, you’re Oprah.

If you’re a newbie podcaster and you want people to come on your show for free (which is the norm) you have to work around them.

Research takes a lot of time

You guest is always going to be more responsive and generous if you’re well prepared.  Unfortunately, being well prepared takes A LOT of time.

One way to make this easier is to have a format where you ask the same questions of every guest like John Lee Dumas does on his podcast EO Fire.

But, while doing your show this way will reduce prep time it can get stale if you don’t do it right or if it doesn’t suit your content.

As a general rule, it’s always best to have fresh interview questions for each guest that you put together through research.

Your fate is in your guest’s hands

Sometimes you’ll get your guest on a bad day or you’ll ask a question they don’t like or maybe they just don’t like you.

Often these things will be out of your control but the best way to prevent this is to be as prepared and delightful as possible.  It’s also a good idea if you’ve got anything curly to ask, not to put those questions at the start of your interview.

And, if you can, conduct a pre-interview so the first time you meet your guest isn’t when you’re sitting in front of a microphone.

If you can’t do a pre-interview try to schedule an extra 10-15 minutes before the interview so you can get comfy with each other before you start.

How to get the most out of your podcast interviews

Read

2. The Solo Podcast

This is a fairly common type of podcast and it’s often used by people who have expertise in a certain area that they want to share with an audience.

The set up is just you, a microphone and your audience listening on the other end.

Advantages of a solo podcast

You don’t have to worry about anyone else

Because you’re flying solo, you can work to your own schedule without worrying about trying to lock down a guest or co-host.

Editing is easier

Editing one voice is much easier than editing many.  Plus you’ve got the added joy of not having to deal with things like over talk which can be a pain in the butt to cut around.

You’re also more likely to stay on track and stick to your episode plan when you’re presenting solo and that’s always a good thing.

It’s a great way to build your personal brand

Doing a solo show is a good way to establish yourself as an expert in your field because you can share your expertise with an audience.

Alternatively, if you’re a comedian or social commentator it’s a great way to get your point of view out into the world without having to write a whole comedy festival show or get a spot on TV or radio.

You can develop a deep connection with your audience

As the host of a solo podcast, it’s just you and your audience so it’s much easier to build a connection with them, fast.

Because you’re speaking directly to them, not a co-host, it won’t take long for your listeners to feel like they know you.  And once they start to feel like that they’ll be more inclined to stick around AND recommend your show.

How to use language to connect with your podcast audience

Read

Disadvantages of a solo podcast

It’s hard to get your energy up

If you’ve got no one to bounce off it can be difficult to harness the conversational energy you need to keep an audience engaged.

So, if you’re brand new to podcasting and nervous behind the mic, I’d recommend taking time to practice before going live so you can get as comfortable as possible.

Also, spend time listening back to your episodes so you can work out how much energy you need to make your show sound engaging.  Often it’s more than you think.

Remember there’s no time limit on this.  You could be recording practice episodes for years before you release anything and no one ever needs to know.  So, practice, practice, practice and you’ll get there.

How to keep an audience engaged when podcasting solo

Read

3. The panel show

This type of podcast is often great for news/current affairs style shows like NPR’s 1A.

It consists of a host and a number of guests (often experts) that rotate each week.

Advantages of a panel show

It keeps things interesting for your audience

A panel show is a great way to give your audience something different each week because they’re constantly getting access to new opinions and perspectives.

It takes the content pressure off you

When you’ve got other brains in the room, you’ve got other people to rely on for content.

Yes, you’ll need to moderate the conversation which can be hard work, but you’ll also get so much more from your guests than you could dish up on your own.

How many people should you have on your podcast?

Read

Disadvantages of a panel show

Booking guests can be tough

Not only is it difficult from a scheduling perspective, but if you’re starting out it might be difficult to get guests to agree to come on your show in the first place.  

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  In fact, if you work in an industry where you have a lot of colleagues who might offer great insight in your niche you could draw on your personal connections.

One thing to remember is that the more people you’ve got involved in your podcast the more time it’ll take to wrangle those people.

That’s fine if you’ve got a bunch of producers working behind the scenes but if it’s just you, doing this on top of working a full-time job it might be more hassle than it’s worth.

It can be hard to keep things on track

You have to be quite skilled as a moderator to keep a show like this moving and progress the conversation from guest to guest.

Sometimes you’ll have panellists who’ll naturally jump in once someone is finished.  At other times they might need to be spoon fed.  Either way, it’s your job to be on top of things and keep the conversation moving.

If you’re doing this via Skype with people in different locations it can be difficult to get the rhythm right.  But if you nail it, it can sound awesome.

Do you have to pay your podcast guests?

Read

4. Conversational and co-hosted podcasts

This style is pretty common and the basic set up is two or more people, sitting around, shooting the shit.

This was the style of my old show Paul and Rach and it’s great if you’ve got co-hosts you’ve got good chemistry with.

Often there might be one person who takes care of the business of the show e.g. introducing the show, setting up the topics and listing off the calls to action at the end.

Having one person responsible for this (in radio they’re called an “anchor”) can help keep things on track but it’s important everyone still brings something to the conversation.

Advantages of conversational podcasts

It’s a fan favourite

If you’ve got great chemistry with your co-host(s) these are the shows that build fans really quickly because people want to be part of the club.

Often listeners will describe these shows as like “catching up with old mates.”

It’s fun

If you’ve got great co-hosts who make you laugh and constantly surprise you with their insights and perspectives this style of show can be an absolute blast to do.

You’re relying on other people for content

Two or three heads are better than one when you’re coming up with content for a weekly show.

If you’ve got co-hosts who bring a lot of ideas, planning can be a creative dream.

It makes a great live show

This type of podcast is perfect if you want to go out on the road and do your show in front of a live audience.

Should you podcast with a co-host?

Read

Disadvantages of conversational podcasts

Everyone needs to be on the same page

The more co-hosts you have the more you’re at the whim of peoples passions, priorities and schedules.  So, to make this a success everyone needs to be 150% on board or the show will eventually fizzle out.

A podcast partnership is like a marriage so you have to choose the right person or people to get into bed with.

It’s harder to edit

The more people you’ve got on your podcast the more potential for over talk, tangents, faff, and fluff.

This is important to consider if you haven’t got a great deal of time for editing and post-production.

It’s also a good idea to record less audio because you don’t want to be trying to whittle three hours of recording down to a 30-minute show.

How to make editing easier when you’re recording a podcast

Read

5. Non-fiction storytelling podcasts

Even if you’re an experienced podcaster this type of podcast can be really difficult to do well without a big team of people behind you.

Nailing this format often requires a team of journalists, editors, producers, sound designers as well as a lot of time.  Examples include This American Life, Serial and S-Town.

You can make shows like this as simple or complex as you like but they often contain a lot of audio elements including grabs of interviews, ambient sound, phone conversations, behind the scenes audio, the list goes on.

So unless you know what you’re doing, this is a style I’d avoid in the early days.

However, if you’ve got access to a great story but you’re not ready to put it together yet, there’s no reason you can’t collect interviews or bits of audio over time and put it together at a later date.

How to come up with a great podcast idea

Read

6. Fiction storytelling podcasts

This is a less crowded space than non-fiction although more people are jumping on board.

If you’re a good writer this can be a great way to get your writing out there but again it requires more than just you reading into a microphone.

This style is more audio cinema than audiobook and often requires music, production and potentially a voice-over artist.

Should you use music in your podcast?

Read

7. Repurposed content

You’ll notice a lot of television shows do this where they’ll repurpose their TV show into a podcast for people to catch up on later.

Examples include The Rachel Maddow Show, Real Time with Bill Maher and Paul Murray Live.  This can also be done with live shows like The Moth.

Maybe you’re involved in a live show that would work brilliantly as a podcast and there might be an opportunity there?

It will often require editing because you can rarely put the live show out as a podcast in exactly the same format as it rolled out on stage.  But if the content translates it can be a great way to get two bites out of the content cherry.

How to improve your podcast with segments

Read

8. Hybrid podcasts

This is a mishmash of the previous types of podcasts.  And you can be as creative as you like with what a hybrid podcast means to you.

Perhaps your show kicks off with a discussion between you and your co-hosts but ends with an interview?  Maybe you’re a solo presenter and for part of your episode you dish out your expertise then include an appearance from one of your listeners?

You can mix and match depending on what suits your show so cherry-pick the best bits and create a style that’s engaging for your audience.

And there you have it!  The different types of podcast (at least at the time of writing this…I’m sure there’ll be 700 more very soon).

Now all that’s left for you to do is pick the one that’s right for you and get cracking!

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

5 Comments
  1. Hannah says:

    Thank you for writing this!

  2. Kiki says:

    Super clear and helpful, thank you!

  3. Yasmin says:

    Thank you this was so helpful

  4. Trish says:

    Concise and clear. Thank you!

  5. Gaby says:

    So helpful!! Thank you so much!

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GET MY FREE PODCAST GUIDE

WANT TO START A PODCAST BUT HAVE NO IDEA HOW? THIS GUIDE TAKES YOU THROUGH ALL THE TOOLS AND TECH YOU NEED TO GET GOING!

SEND IT TO ME!