In this post, we’re making it our mission to break down some of the different types of formats you can use on your podcast. And while this sounds straightforward, it can be a little more complicated than you might initially think! This is because within the different format types, there are subcategories and hybrid styles, making it slightly tricky to clearly define each the general format types.
But we’ve done our best to give you the ins and outs of the more common podcasting styles and formats.
If you’re just getting ready to start a podcast, this list will help you hone in on the format or style that’s right for you and your niche. And if you’ve been podcasting for a while, but you’re looking to explore new avenues, or find alternative ways of sharing your content, this list will be able to point you in the right direction of where you will take your show next.
Let’s dive in!
1. The Solo Podcast
First up, the solo podcast. This is arguably the most common style of podcast, and it’s not very hard to see why. This format, as the name suggests, just involves one person delivering the content. This means that the process of achieving a great sounding episode is significantly simplified when compared to some of the other formats we’ll cover in this post. This podcast format is also favored as it can be easier to edit, as it’s just one person’s input that needs editing attention.
But that doesn’t mean that it is all plain sailing. A solo podcast requires specific talents from the host. They need to be able to single-handedly deliver exciting content with energy and enthusiasm – something that is not easy to do when it’s just you and a mic! You also need to make what you say sound natural, and not like you’re reading a script. Most listeners tune into podcasts to hear someone speak, not read. There are audiobooks for that!
The format is also popular because within the solo podcast category, there is a whole variety of options. From solo commentary or monologues, fiction or nonfiction storytelling, or even niche-related Q&As, there is a whole scope of options when it comes to hosting a podcast solo. If you’ve got the passion and enthusiasm to keep your listeners entertained and engaged on your own, solo could be the way to go.
2. The Co-Hosted Podcast
Following hot on the heels of the solo podcast in terms of popularity is the co-hosted podcast. This type of show often develops organically when two people who are interested in the same topic decide their next natural course of action is to start a podcast together. Not only does the co-hosted show give you the opportunity to have some fun, it can also allow you to offer some super valuable content to your listeners. Whether they tune in to hear your natural chemistry and hilarious banter, or the opposing and diverse views you offer on your topics, a co-hosted concept makes for a great podcast when executed well. It’s also an added bonus that you have someone to share the workload of all that creating a successful podcast entails.
Related read: The 8 Top Benefits of Having a Podcast Co-Host
The interview format is a great choice if you have a subject that caters to expert input, thrives on varied opinions, or one that many people can contribute to. Many celebrities or highly-connected names have been drawn to this format, as it provides the opportunity to connect with other well-known figures, but this format is certainly not only for the famous. Those in a varied collection of specialized disciplines, from astronomy to all sorts of medical practitioners have all ventured into podcasting as a way to share their knowledge and expertise, and to connect their listeners with others in their field.
This format does require that the host has excellent interviewing chops as well as research skills, but it also requires that the host has excellent listening skills, which is a necessity if you want to be a great interviewer. You also need to be able to continually find guests for your show if you wish it to continue long into the future, but when done well, it is a highly sought-after type of podcast.
4. Panel Shows
The panel show format can be a winning choice as it can be used for nearly every topic under the sun! If you and your friends are super passionate about a particular topic, chances are you will find an eager audience as passionate as you. And if you get the mix of characters and points of view right, the dynamics and banter that you can deliver episode after episode will help your show achieve great success.
This type of show can be tricky to coordinate, as you are dealing with the schedules of a number of different, busy people, and problems can also occur when you have a lot of different personalities in the mix, but if all the hosts pull their weight and are determined to work together to make the show a success, it very likely will be!
Related read: How To Successfully Record Your Podcast Remotely
5. Non-Fiction Narrative Story-Telling
Most true crime podcasts fit this bill (although this category is so popular it’s almost a format on its own!) The non-fiction narrative podcast format can be most likened to an audio documentary that unveils or unravels an event or story that happened in real-life, and usually does so over a number of episodes. If you have a true tale that needs to see the light of day, or you have a knack for solving mysteries, this is the format for you and your show.
This format requires exceptional research skills, and the ability to tell a story clearly and coherently, but the success of shows like Serial, Hunting Warhead, and the intense following many true-crime podcasts enjoy means that if you nail the details, you’ll soon have a devoted audience.
6. Fiction Narrative Story-Telling
This podcast format has seen a massive surge in popularity recently, and some big names in television and film are jumping in on the action too! If story-telling is your passion but you haven’t quite landed that book deal just yet, a fiction podcast could be just the channel you need to share your stories with the world! Using the fiction format for a podcast provides writers a wonderful opportunity to practice and hone their craft while still being able to build a following around their work. And in some ways, a podcast can be even better than a book, as it can allow you to really bring your work to life with sound affects, background music, and different voices.
The Marvel franchise have embraced podcasts, bringing us two seasons of Wolverine, and the long-running Welcome to Night Vale has met with great success, but there is plenty of space in the genre for unknown writers to make a name for themselves, and is a relativity easy way to “get published” and have people sit up and take notice of your work.
7. Repurposed Content
If you’re already an established blogger, vlogger, or another type of content creator, then you could very easily transition what you’re already doing into a repurposed content podcast. This format is perfect for creators in other mediums who are wanting to reach new audiences with their content and cement their niche authority and expertise. And because you’ve already done most of the ground work in creating your content, the transition to a high-quality podcast will be that much easier. Some editing will likely be necessary, also depending on the type of format the content was in originally, but the overall time it takes to produce episodes will be significantly less than if you were creating new content from scratch.
Shows like The Moth, which gathers stories told on all sorts of stages from all over the world and shares them via podcast episodes, as well as The Rachel Maddow Show, which turns the well-known world news television show into an informative podcast, are great examples of this format.
The hybrid format is perfect when your niche topic doesn’t quite fit into more “traditional” podcast formats, or you want a little more flexibility with all you want to do on your show. You can have a hybrid show that has solo segments which segue into panel discussions, non-fiction narrative story-telling which also feature guest interviews, or even scripted fiction that dips into improv on occasion. And these are just some of the possibilities! So if you’ve been fretting that your podcast idea seems to float between formats, then fret no more, because your podcast is a hybrid!
A hybrid format could really be any combination of the formats on this list, meaning you’re really able to get creative with how you develop your own unique show format. But a word of caution. You want to make sure that your mix of formats still makes sense overall. A hybrid podcast can only be successful if the combination of styles or formats adds to the overall podcast experience and doesn’t simply leave the listener very confused as to what is actually going on. If there is no cohesion tying it all together, you may need to do a little refining and hone your niche more accurately.
If you have a razor sharp wit and cat-like conversational reflexes, then perhaps the improv podcast format is the one for you. This format can take the form of a solo hosted show, or it can be a co-hosted or full-cast/panel endeavor, but the underlying premise is that the content is all improvised or ad libbed on the spot. There may be a broad script, depending on the particular type of show, or there may be a general topic to be covered, but other than that, the conversation is free to flow wherever it leads. The improv podcast format is also very versatile, as it can lend itself to a number of different niches or podcasting styles.
Anything and everything, from comedic routines and improv game shows, such as the ever-popular Hey Riddle Riddle, to topical monologues and even fictional storytelling like Hello, from the Magic Tavern, all find their place in the improv format.
10. Table Top
Last but not least, there is the tabletop format. This type of format is also known as “actual play podcasts” which is a little more self-explanatory. This podcast format features a group of people recording themselves playing their tabletop role-playing game of choice (commonly termed TTRPG, just FYI) and releasing these sessions of their campaigns as podcast episodes. Obviously, this is a very niche-orientated podcast format, but if done well, this format brings together the “on-air” energy and banter of a panel show mixed with the excitement and intrigue of improvised storytelling. These tabletop podcasts have seen a whole surge in popularity over the last few years, and have even helped introduce many new players to all that these games have to offer. These types of podcasts are also attractive to fans of TTRPG as they provide a way to “join a campaign” when this is not possible IRL.
If you’ve never explored this type of podcast format, check out The Adventure Zone, Aventure They Wrote, or Autonomic, all of which are excellent examples of all that tabletop podcasts have to offer. If you and your friends are keen D&D players or you have tons of knowledge to share with other avid table-top game players, this format could be a great one to explore as you head off on your podcasting adventure.
And there you have it, 10 of the top types of podcast formats. And if you didn’t know there were so many options when it comes to picking the format for your show, you wouldn’t be the only one! And as the industry continues to develop and new avenues continue to open up, we predict that we will start to see many new formats emerging as creatives push the boundaries of what is possible through the medium of audio communication and entertainment.