Your Guide to 8 Popular Types of Podcast Formats

Emily Kingland
May 21, 2024
Your Guide to 8 Popular Types of Podcast Formats

Those who eat one thing on their plate at a time. And those who mix it all together into one indistinct food ball.

The same goes for podcasting. There are your traditionalists who stick to one podcast episode format. Then, there are your mixer-uppers.

No matter which kind of podcaster you are, you should have a grasp on the top podcast formats out there, their pros and cons, how to use them, and real-life examples.

What are the most popular types of podcasts? There are 8 popular podcast episode formats:

1. Solo Episode

Pros: Strong connection to listeners, keeps things fresh

Cons: One perspective, can run out of content

Best For: Business, news, entertainment, storytelling, specialized podcasts

Example: ABM Finale -- B2B Growth

2. One-On-One Interview

Pros: More exposure, meet more people

Cons: Responses unpredictable, technical difficulties

Best For: Business, news, entertainment, specialized podcasts

Example: Sustainable Relationships -- B2B Growth

3. Panel Interview

Pros: More perspectives, more exposure

Cons: Challenging to moderate, scheduling conflicts

Best For: Business, news, entertainment, specialized podcasts

Example: The Writers Panel

4. Co-Host Conversational

Pros: Fun to make, control over content

Cons: Prone to tangents, Fewer new connections

Best For: Business, news, entertainment, comedy, lifestyle podcasts

Example: Outside Podcast Hosts -- B2B Growth

5. Non-Fictional Storytelling

Pros: Engaging, popular

Cons: Can sound over-produced, fewer new connections

Best For: News, true crime, storytelling, entertainment podcasts

Example: Foundering

6. Fictional Storytelling

Pros: Engaging, popular

Cons: Expensive, time-consuming

Best For: Entertainment, storytelling, comedy podcasts

Example: Welcome To Night Vale

7. Repurposed Content

Pros: Easy, fast

Cons: Can have low sound quality, not right for the audience

Best For: Business, lifestyle, entertainment, comedy podcasts

Example: Demand Gen -- B2B Growth

8. Hybrid

Pros: Engaging, rich content

Cons: Expensive, time-consuming

Best For: Business, news, entertainment, comedy, True crime, storytelling, lifestyle podcasts

Example: The GaryVee Audio Experience

Let's dig a little deeper into each one of these bad mama-jamas.

1. Podcast Format: Solo Episode

What's a solo podcast episode? A solo podcast episode is a format that involves only one speaker sharing their perspective on a topic, similar to a monologue.

In a solo episode, the speaker offers their opinion on a subject they're (ideally) an expert on while referencing personal experiences for context. Essentially, it's the auditory equivalent to an op-ed piece in a newspaper.

Pros & Cons of Solo Episodes

There are three main advantages of making solo episodes for your podcast.

  • Fill up down periods with content. Even if you regularly do interview-based episodes, sometimes you need to fill a hole in your content calendar. A solo episode is a quick fix to open spots in your content queue.
  • Keep your show fresh. Throwing a solo episode into your queue once in a while mixes things up for your listeners.
  • Create stronger connections with listeners. When a host who normally does interviews makes a solo episode, listeners get a better understanding of who they are. Solo episodes often make the host seem more authentic and the content more organic.

The one disadvantage of the solo episode format is:

  • if it's the only format you're using.

Particularly with business podcasts, you want guests on to share their insights and advice on topics. Listening to one person's opinion on things can get really old really quickly.

Plus, it is more likely you will run out of content to talk about.

How to Do a Solo Podcast Episode

Coming up with a solo episode is as simple as choosing a topic, creating an outline, and hitting Record.

The podcast outline doesn't have to be anything fancy -- its purpose is to remind you of the main talking points you want to cover. We recommend opting for an outline as opposed to reading off a script. You want to sound as natural as possible (and there's always editing).

Just like with an op-ed piece, you want to start a solo episode with a hook. Then, transition into sharing your unique point of view on the topic.

Can't think of a topic to discuss? Here are some ideas:

  • Favorite books
  • Favorite podcasts
  • Lesson learned from a mentor
  • Your favorite people to follow on LinkedIn
  • Failure story
  • Opposite stance on a commonly held belief
  • Productivity hacks
  • How you hire people
  • How you fire people
  • Your morning routine
  • How you handle difficult customers
  • Top priorities for your role
  • Your strengths vs. weaknesses
  • Share something you're currently doing to improve your leadership
  • How you take vacations
  • How you build new habits
  • How to make big decisions
  • How you stay focused
  • How you prioritize your inbox
  • How you lead meetings
  • A creative solution to one of your recent problems
  • Your best advice for networking
  • Explain one of your strategic partnerships

(Find more topic ideas here.)

Solo episodes don't need to be as long as interview episodes. In fact, they shouldn't be because there's only one speaker with one perspective.

Types of Solo Podcast Episodes

Understanding the type of solo episode you are going for informs the structure and mood of the episode. Your chosen topic mainly dictates which type of solo episode you'll end up with.

3 Types of Solo Episodes:

  1. The Listicle: You describe a list of books, podcasts, speeches, or any other media. Each item should have a quick description along with any takeaways you got from it.
  2. The Framework: You focus on a process with (ideally) a specific number of steps to follow. You should list each step and then go into deeper explanations of each.
  3. The Story: You tell a story with a moral or big idea at the end. This could be a story of failing or succeeding but it needs to conclude with a lesson.

2. Podcast Format: One-on-One Interview

What is a one-on-one interview podcast episode? A one-on-one podcast interview consists of the podcast host asking the guest a series of questions about their expertise.

The purpose behind a 1:1 podcast interview is to educate listeners using the guest's unique insights, advice, and experiences. The host's job is to uncover that distinct perspective with strategic questions.

Pros & Cons of 1:1 Podcast Interviews

The pros of using a 1:1 interview format for your podcast include...

  • More insights for your listeners
  • You get to meet new people who could become customers
  • Your show is exposed to a larger audience
  • Conversations can be more engaging than monologues
  • It's easy to record a 1:1 interview over video call

Some cons of using the 1:1 podcast interview format are...

  • Guest responses can be unpredictable
  • They take more time & effort than solo episodes
  • Technical difficulties while recording

How to Do a 1:1 Podcast Interview

There's not an exact science for hosting a great podcast interview. But, with thousands of episodes produced, we've come pretty close.

There are four main components to hosting a bang-up podcast interview.

1. Keyword Research

First, you need to figure out what your target audience wants to learn about. Some really simple keyword research can dig up lots of interview topics.

The awesome thing about starting with keyword research is that you're pumping up your SEO juice, as well as identifying matters your ideal listeners want to hear about.

We use a process called Google Alphabet Soup to come up with relevant interview topics.

Another way to identify topics that your audience wants to hear about is to reference customer FAQs. Your customers, as well as ideal buyers, often have the same questions.

2. Research the Guest

By now, you should have a hearty list of interview topics to draw from. Either your topics can drive the search for the perfect guest, or the perfect guest can determine their preferred topic from the list.

No matter which path you take, it's essential to research the guest to have a successful interview.

For one, you save yourself and the guest a lot of time and frustration with general background questions. Plus, you are better equipped to take a unique angle with the interview, which your listeners will appreciate.

So, to prepare for the podcast interview, listen to other podcasts the guest has been interviewed on. Look through their LinkedIn content. See if they've written any blog posts that you can form questions around.

3. Pre-Interview

It's a good idea to have a quick call with the guest before the actual interview.

The purpose of a pre-interview is to...

  • Build rapport with the guest
  • Make the guest feel more comfortable about the interview
  • Define what the bulk of the interview is going to cover
  • Set the main talking points
  • Ask POV questions

The pre-interview can either happen a few days before recording or right before the real interview if your guest is more experienced.

4. Outline

Most new podcast hosts like to use an outline to guide the conversation.

An episode outline should not be a script. It's there to remind you of the topics and questions you and your guest decided on.

As you're recording the interview, try to remember a few best practices that will make the episode pop:

  • Focus on what your guest is saying -- not what you are going to say next.
  • Jot down quick notes of things you want to revisit.
  • It's okay to interrupt if the guest gets on a tangent.
  • Guide the guest into discussing how they carry out their processes.
  • It's okay to respectfully disagree with the guest.
  • Focus on actionable advice as opposed to theories.
  • Don't drag out irrelevant tangents.
  • Don't try to sound smarter than everybody. If you don’t understand something the guest says, respond with: For anyone less familiar, what did you mean by _____?
  • It's okay to be nervous. Confidence comes with practice.

In the end, you're just having a conversation. Don't overthink it.

Types of One-On-One Podcast Interviews

Within the 1:1 interview category are three sub-categories. In some cases, it might help to create a process for each of these different kinds of podcast interviews.

For business podcasts, the three types of interviews are with either...

  1. External guests. These guests are experts from outside of your organization. You probably asked them to be on your show because you'd like to do business with them.
  2. Internal guests. You guest it. 😉 These folks are experts from your team. Internal guests could be your CEO, Director of Sales, CMO, Creative Director, etc.
  3. Current customers. There's no better way to produce an authentic case study than to bring a current customer onto your show. (Not to mention, they'll probably be really excited to be on a podcast.)

3. Podcast Format: Panel Interview

What's a panel podcast interview? A panel podcast interview includes one host or moderator asking two or more subject matter experts a series of questions, allowing for each guest to answer.

Lots of times panel interviews are done via webinar or live stream. However, they can work  well as a podcast episode too.

Pros & Cons of Panel Interviews for Podcasts

The advantages of doing a panel interview for your podcast include...

  • You get to meet more industry leaders who may want to buy from you
  • Your audience gets way more insights and perspectives
  • Your show gets more exposure

Disadvantages of panel podcast interviews might include...

  • Making sure every guest gets a chance to be heard
  • Listeners being confused about who's speaking
  • Coordinating schedules

How to Do a Panel Interview

In a panel interview, the guests will be offering the bulk of the content. Being the host, you'll likely ask fewer questions because for each question, there will be two or more responses.

Hosting a panel interview for your podcast is similar to a one-on-one interview in that...

  • You should do keyword research to find a relevant topic.
  • There needs to be some research done on the guests beforehand.
  • There should be a pre-interview so the guests know what to expect.
  • A simple outline should be created to keep the conversation on track.

The only difference is that there are multiple guests.

Types of Panel Interviews

The type of panel interview you do really depends on the guests you have. This is also where guest research comes in really handy.

Do the guests, for the most part, have the same stance on the main topic? Then the interview can take on a round-robin format where everybody answers each question.

Do the guests have opposing views on the main topic? The interview, then, could have more of a debate feel.

Do the guests each specialize in a different area of the main topic? They should be asked different questions to reflect their various expertise.

Panel Podcast Interview Example

The Writers Panel is a panel-based podcast that interviews popular TV show writers, producers, and showrunners.

4. Podcast Format: Co-Host Conversational

What's a co-host conversational podcast episode? A co-host conversational podcast episode consists of two or more co-hosts discussing a topic with no designated interviewer or interviewee.

The textbook definition 👆 of a co-host conversational episode doesn't really convey how fun they can be. Essentially, you're recording a conversation with a friend where you can banter, make interesting observations, and keep it informal.

Pros & Cons of Co-Host Conversational Podcast Episodes

The pros are many and the cons are few. However, the few disadvantages can quickly outweigh the good things.

Pros of co-host conversational episodes include...

  • They're a lot of fun to make.
  • They're full of personality.
  • Scheduling recordings is easier than with guests.
  • You can talk about whatever you want.

The cons of co-host conversational episodes include...

  • It's easy to go off on tangents and you don't necessarily meet ideal customers.
  • Your network isn’t going to grow as fast as it could.

When you're recording a podcast episode with a friend, it can be really easy to go off on irrelevant tangents. This can frustrate listeners who want to hear about the main topic of discussion. It can deter them from listening to any future episodes.

So, even if you have good on-mic chemistry, it can quickly go awry.

Secondly, when you choose to co-host a podcast with no guests, your network isn't going to grow as fast as it could. But, if it's not your goal to meet industry leaders or potential customers, then this isn't much of a disadvantage.

How to Do a Co-Host Conversational Episode

This is the fun part!

Topic Research

First, if your goal is to target a particular audience, you'll want to do some topic research. If it's your first episode, keyword research and social listening are going to be super helpful.

One way to do topic research is to work through the Google Alphabet Soup process we outlined in one-on-one interviews.

Another way is to get on social media to explore popular hashtags, influencers, and trends. This method helps you ideate some relevant topics to discuss with your co-host(s).

Outline the 'Sode

Once you've decided on a topic, do some deeper research on it. You want to be able to contribute knowledge nuggets to the conversation.

Outline the main talking points and insights you want to cover. Each co-host should have a copy of the episode outline.

Record It

Now, decide whether you and your co-host(s) want to record over video call or in-person.

Recording a podcast episode with a video conferencing app is normally easier to pull off but isn't quite as fun as in-person. We recommend using Riverside.fm for recording over distance.

To record an in-person podcast episode, you'll need a few extras. But, once everything is set up, it's easier to record the next episode. (And it's a lot more fun.)

Types of Co-Host Conversational Podcast Episodes

There are two main types of co-host conversational episodes.

  1. Subject Matter Expert + Commentator: This kind of co-host conversational format consists of one of the co-hosts being the expert and the other(s) commenting on the content. Examples of this format are Crime Junkie and You're Wrong About.
  2. Equally Experts: This type of co-host conversational episode has 2+ co-hosts who are all well-versed in the subject matter. An example of this format is Stuff You Should Know.

5. Podcast Format: Non-Fiction Storytelling

What is non-fiction storytelling podcast format? Non-fiction storytelling for podcasting is the narrative retelling of a true event.

You're favorite true crime podcast? Most likely non-fiction storytelling.

Pros & Cons of Non-Fiction Storytelling for Podcasts

The pros and cons of this podcast format really depend on what your goals are for your show.

If you're a journalist who covers current events, non-fiction storytelling is probably the best route. If your goal is to get more customers for your business, however, non-fiction storytelling is not going to be the best format to serve your objectives.

Being in the latter category, B2B Growth avoids non-fiction storytelling for the most part. It often sounds too produced and doesn't allow us to meet our ideal customers.

How to Do a Non-Fiction Storytelling Podcast

In the case of non-fiction storytelling, the topic likely came to you before the idea of doing the podcast. If it didn't, you could search online for interesting story ideas that don't already have dedicated podcasts.

As you might've already guessed, you're going to have to do quite a bit of research unless you were a first-hand witness to the story.

Then, it's really about recording the story and finding a good podcast production/editing agency or freelancer.

Types of Non-Fiction Storytelling Podcasts

Once you have a topic, it's time to plan out your content. Will your show be a series focusing on one story, like Root of Evil? Or will it be one theme with each episode being its own separate story, like Crime Junkie? (You can probably tell, I enjoy my true crime pods.)

true-crime-meme

There are tons of genres within the non-fiction storytelling podcast family. However, the formats fall into two major buckets:

  1. One Series, One Story: This non-fiction storytelling format spreads one story out over multiple episodes. Oftentimes, this type of show will have several seasons, each focusing on its own story.
  2. Separate Stories: Creating a non-fiction podcast in which each episode is its own story is another format of non-fiction storytelling. The episodes aren't contributing to one overarching narrative.

Non-Fiction Storytelling Example

An example of a One Series, One Story non-fiction podcast is Foundering. Their first series was about the collapse of WeWork. The most recent series is about TikTok.

6. Podcast Format: Fictional Storytelling

What's fictional storytelling for podcasts? Fictional storytelling for podcasts is a narrative format that uses voice actors and oftentimes sound effects to tell a nonfactual story.

Fictional storytelling podcasts are normally highly-produced and can take months to release.

Pros & Cons of Fictional Storytelling Podcasts

Some advantages of fictional podcast formats include...

  • They're highly creative.
  • They can reach a wide audience.
  • They can be very engaging for listeners.

Disadvantages of making a fictional storytelling podcast include...

  • They're expensive to make.
  • They take a long time to release.
  • There's some tough competition.

How to Do a Fictional Storytelling Podcast

While you can go at it alone, creating a successful fictional storytelling podcast takes a lot of work and knowledge of audio editing and mixing.

Whether you're on your own or partnered with a production agency, the first step is to make a storyboard. What's the plot about? Who are the main characters? What does your story arc look like?

Then, move into writing a script. Figure out if you need to hire voice actors and/or rent a studio space. Consider pitching your show to podcast advertising agencies to see if you can drum up some sponsors.

Once you get your first episode recorded, it is a good idea to hire an audio engineer to do the sound editing and mixing. You will also need to decide on a podcast hosting service in order to publish your show.

Types of Fictional Storytelling Podcasts

Similar to non-fiction storytelling podcasts, fictional shows have two main formats: One Series, One Story and Separate Stories.

During your storyboarding process, it'll be pretty clear which format your show will take on.

Fictional Storytelling Podcast Example

A popular example of a fictional storytelling podcast is Welcome To Night Vale. This fictitious show is a bingeable sci-fi comedy.

7. Podcast Format: Repurposed Content

What's repurposed content for a podcast episode? Repurposed content for a podcast episode can be a video, webinar, or other sources of audio edited to fit into a show's content queue.

That LinkedIn livestream you did last week? Turn it into a podcast episode. The TEDx Talk you gave last year? Podcast episode.

recycle-meme

Pros & Cons of Repurposed Content for Podcasts

Reusing content for podcast episodes has the major advantage of...

  • You don't have to make anything new.

It's already done. Two birds with one stone.

The con to look out for when repurposing audio is:

  • The quality of the sound.

If there was a bad internet connection or the room has poor acoustics, it could be challenging for an audio engineer to make it sound good.

How to Repurpose Content for Podcasts

Repurposing content for a podcast episode is as simple as sending the raw audio off to an engineer to edit and mix.

One thing to remember, though, is that the content should bring value to your podcast audience. Sure, you might've hit that speech outta the park. But, ultimately, that was a different audience and a different channel.

Consider adding in some narration if you think it'll help your podcast listeners better understand the context.

Types of Repurposed Content for Podcasts

The type of repurposed content you use is entirely dependent on what you have available.

There are a ton of opportunities to reuse recorded audio for your podcast:

  • Speeches
  • Episodes of other podcasts (w/ permission)
  • Webinars
  • Clubhouse broadcasts
  • Live streams
  • Presentations
  • Zoom calls

8. Podcast Format: Hybrid Episode

What's a hybrid podcast episode? A hybrid podcast episode is a combination of multiple formats, like a one-on-one interview and non-fictional storytelling, to make one cohesive episode.

It's worth it to note that while hybrid episodes take more production, a hybrid podcast is relatively easy to do and effective. By switching up the formats of individual episodes, your show stays fresh and interesting.

Pros & Cons of Hybrid Podcast Episodes

The pros of doing a hybrid episode are:

  • It has the potential to keep listeners' attention for longer.
  • It is a chance to tell a cohesive story with a mixture of audio elements.
  • You can paint a richer picture for the listener

The drawbacks of making a hybrid episode are:

  • It is more expensive and time-consuming than using a single format.

Depending on your audience, the cons of hybrid podcast episodes can quickly outweigh the pros.

How to Do a Hybrid Podcast Episode

To create a hybrid podcast episode, you essentially combine your preferred formats from the seven types of podcasts listed.

  1. Solo episode
  2. One-on-one interview
  3. Panel interview
  4. Co-host conversational
  5. Non-fictional storytelling
  6. Fictional storytelling
  7. Repurposed content

Which formats will help you get your message across? What supporting elements do you need to communicate your credibility?

It can also help to storyboard a hybrid episode so you can visualize all of the components you need. Once you've collected all of the audio, we recommend hiring an engineer to edit and mix the sound.

Types of Hybrid Podcast Episodes

There aren't any set types of hybrid episodes because of the creative freedom they offer. You can combine any number of episode formats.

Just like how I can combine two of my favorite animals into one baby pitten. Kitguin? Penguitten?

penguin-kitten-hybrid

Hybrid Podcast Episode Example

One show that uses the hybrid format for some of its episodes is The GaryVee Audio Experience. These highly-produced episodes take a lot of time and a lot of work to release.

Choosing the Best Type of Podcast Format

It doesn't have to be complicated. In order to choose the best episode format for your show, take a look at your...

  • Message
  • Goal
  • Budget
  • Availability

And hey! If you need additional support, podcast agencies are a great place to start. Check out the 7 essential services every agency should offer.