What Should My Show Sound Like? A Guide To Podcast Formats

One of the best things about podcasting is that the medium is so varied, meaning that podcasters are free to do basically whatever they want with their shows. Podcasters are not restricted in nearly the same way that traditional broadcasters are and there are content creators who are constantly pushing the medium to new heights.
That being said, there are definitely some clearly defined formats that have emerged within the medium which I want to explore in this article and which I hope will inspire you. I don’t want you to necessarily box yourself into a format, but I do think there is some merit in looking at what is out there.

Discussion

This is a pretty loosely defined format but – in general – this involves two or more people discussing a topic and usually these podcasts involve a lot of banter with a multitude of different opinions. Typically there would be one or more regular hosts for the show with special guests being brought in. In this style of podcast, the topics at hand are the focal point of the conversation.

EXAMPLE: No Such Thing as a Fish
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Interview

The interview podcast features one or more hosts interviewing a new guest each episode, this is different to the discussion podcast in that the interview would generally be about the interviewee and/or a topic that they are well-versed rather than a group discussion. In this style of podcast, the interviewee is the focal point of the conversation.

EXAMPLE: WTF With Marc Maron
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Documentary

These podcasts can take on many different forms, with various levels of production value. These podcasts always require a lot of preparation and research, especially if you want to use a lot of production elements (interview clips, sound effects etc.) This style of podcast is almost always educational in one way or another.

EXAMPLE: The Mythology Podcast
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Audio Drama

Radio plays used to be a mainstay of the radio industry but have fallen out of favour in modern times. However, there has been a resurgence of the format in the podcasting sphere. These podcasts are formatted similarly to television shows and typically use a combination of sound effects and music to set the scene created by the actors and director.

EXAMPLE: The Black Tapes
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Music

The music podcast is quite different to the previous ones, in the content is generally focused around playing actual songs. The thing with this is that you have to be careful regarding the licensing of the songs you want to play – you either need written permission from the license holders or you need to apply for a special license (you would have to research your own country’s laws on this). Another option is to have artists perform on your show, but obviously this would require more specialised equipment and technical expertise.

EXAMPLE: All Songs Considered
All-Songs-Considered

Repackaged Radio Broadcast

Many radio stations, understanding the power of podcasting as a medium, distribute their shows as podcasts. Some shows are podcast in their entirety (with music cut out) while others just repackage the best moments from shows.

EXAMPLE: Various BBC Radio Live podcasts
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You may even want to combine aspects of different formats to create your own, or revolutionise the industry by creating something new – regardless of what you do, just make sure that it’s something you can realistically manage in time frames that work for you.

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