5 Most Popular Podcast Formats: Which One’s Right for You?

Christian Cawley 23-05-2017

Your podcast could probably be better. Perhaps you followed our guide to launching a successful podcast How to Start Your Own Successful Podcast Podcasts can be heard by millions of people worldwide. Now it's easier than ever to collaborate, record, edit, publish, and promote your own show. We show you how. Read More . You might have picked up our tips for streamlining your podcast post-production Streamline Your Podcast Production in Audacity With 3 Easy Tips Making podcasts is fun, but the post-production stage can be time-consuming. If you're using Audacity to edit your podcasts, these three tips can help you save a lot of time. Read More . But you’ve noticed the podcast is flagging, and you don’t know what to do about it.


Perhaps you should put an end to it and put your solitary remaining listener out of their misery. Then again, if you still have a listener who isn’t your mom, perhaps the best option is to keep going. After all, you’re clearly doing something that someone likes. But how can you rebuild the audience?

The smart option is to reformat the podcast. This means looking at the podcast you have now, assessing just what it is, and introducing some new concepts.

No matter which format you settle on, be sure to encourage your listeners to rate and review your podcast How to Review Podcasts on iTunes (And Why You Should) Reviewing your favorite podcast on iTunes is an easy way of helping the people responsible for it. But how do you do that? Read More .

So which podcast type are you currently using? There are, strictly speaking, five podcast types.

1. The Solo Podcast

This might be the podcast you started off with. Basically, you and the listener, chatting away, sharing your thoughts on whatever your podcast topic might be. These days, the solo podcast is limited to very particular niches. For instance, you might be a comedian or a musician. The solo podcast, therefore, is ideal for you to share your unique slant on the world.


woman recording a podcast
Image Credit: Ken Niphon via Shutterstock

While it might seem like an easy solution (and it is when it comes to production), the solo podcast isn’t for everyone. If you’re unsure of your point of view on a subject, for instance, then you might find yourself drying up (that is, running out of things to say, or losing your thread). It’s a good idea, therefore, to have a plan: a format. For a solo show, that might be:

  1. Introduction
  2. Topic A
  3. Transition
  4. Topic B
  5. Etc.
  6. Summary
  7. Outro

When it comes to production, all you need to do is grab a microphone, find an audio recording app, hit record, and start talking. This is possible on virtually any device, which means you could conceivably publish podcasts on a daily basis (although this is perhaps too regular in most cases).

Looking for a place to host your show? Here are several reasons to choose SoundCloud to host your podcast 6 Reasons to Host Your Podcast on SoundCloud SoundCloud is one of the best places to host your podcast, so here is why SoundCloud is perfect for your podcasting needs. Read More .


2. The Podcast Interview

Talking to yourself on a weekly basis can be dull. Even if you liven things up with radio show-style sound effects, just chatting on and on, even with a plan, can prove somewhat limiting.

But if you’re talking on a specialist topic, it’s always a good idea to get input from a fellow expert. To begin with, it gives the audience another voice to listen to. You might well have silky tones that rival Morgan Freeman himself, but there should always be room for someone else.

woman interviewing man with microphone
Image Credit: Kzenon via Shutterstock

How do you bring a guest into the podcast? Several options are available:

  1. Telephone — Record the interview on your smartphone using a call recording app. You’ll need to sync the data to your computer for editing (unless you have the tools to edit and upload on your phone).
  2. Skype — If you don’t have a smartphone, you can use Skype on your desktop to call other Skype accounts and telephones. With a Skype call recording tool Skype Auto Recorder: Record Your Skype Calls Into MP3 Files Read More , the audio will be captured and you’ll be able to package it into your podcast later.
  3. One-on-One — The final option is to make sure you can get a microphone under the nose of the person you’re interviewing. This may require you to spend money on additional hardware, but the end results should be good. Just remember to check the sound levels before recording commences.

The format for a podcast interview would look something like this:

  1. Introduction
  2. Introduce guest
  3. Discussion
  4. Summary
  5. Outro

Clearly, an interview scenario has greater time overheads than a solo podcast. It can also require more software, sound hardware, or both. However, the results can be superb.

3. The Multi-Host Show

For a more varied collection of voices and opinions on a regular basis, the multi-host show is the way to go. Indeed, many podcasters use this option to start with. After all, if you dry up, there’s always someone else available to take up the slack. Execution of a multi-host show can be tricky, however.

dual podcast hosts
Image Credit: James Royal-Lawson via Flickr


You basically have two options: online (which means embracing Skype, Google Hangouts, or another VOIP option Goodbye, Skype: 4 Alternative VOIP Services You Can Record Calls With Can't record calls with Skype anymore? Recent changes that break support of third-party apps have left many users frustrated. Could now be the time to try an alternative VoIP call recording service? Read More ), while recording the call (preferably at both ends, just in case one of the recordings fails), and offline. The latter can potentially have a travel overhead for one or more hosts, however. You should also consider transportation of hardware: multiple microphones and a mixer for your laptop or tablet will be required.

Many podcasts use the multi-host format, it’s especially useful if one of the hosts must take a timeout. Typically, a multi-host podcast format follows this structure:

  1. Introduction
  2. Catch-up
  3. Topic A
  4. Transition (optional as conversation may move organically)
  5. Topic B
  6. Etc.
  7. Summary
  8. Outro

As a podcaster with 10 years of experience, I’ve found that the multi-host format works well. It’s also possible to combine it with the previous format, and have one or more guests to interview in the show.

4. The Round Table

A variation of the above two formats, this is an approach whereby a single host introduces three or more (perhaps as many as ten) semi-regular guests to discuss a topic.

Commonly found in technology and gaming podcasts Attention, Gamers! Here Are the 10 Best Gaming Podcasts Video games were one of the first mediums to go all in on podcasts, and there are now a wealth of gaming podcasts from which to choose. Here are 10 of the best. Read More (as well as those looking at politics), round tables are typically longer than a standard podcast (perhaps two or three times as long). This is usually because of the range of opinions, so it can help to keep the focus of the podcast quite narrow if you want to keep the duration to manageable levels. After all, you need to consider whether your audience will have time for the whole thing!

podcast round table
Image Credit: David Martín :: Suki_ :: via Flickr

Like multi-host shows, round table podcasts will need to be conducted via your preferred VOIP solution, or in person. Organizing a round table podcast can be time-consuming; however, the format makes it suitable for a live broadcast via Facebook or Google Hangouts/YouTube, in addition to audio-only live broadcasts. In fact, you could even invite a live studio audience!

A round table podcast format would typically run as follows:

  1. Introductions and profiles of each guest
  2. Topic discussion
  3. Audience questions
  4. Summary
  5. Outro

5. The Audio Magazine

The final format for a podcast is an eclectic mix of news, interviews, discussions, and perhaps a few gags. It might have a single host or multiple hosts — it’s up to you.

As most podcasts undergo post-production (that is, editing and mixing), having an audio magazine approach means you can collate your content over the course of a week, edit it together with some links, and publish.

audacity podcast recording

All this approach really needs is you and a microphone. If you want to chat to someone remote, you can either hop on a train or Skype them, then record the conversation. All the audio should be synced to your computer, edited together, and published. For one-man podcasts, this is a great way to bounce the format — it’s basically a ready-made pivot!

Here’s how an audio magazine podcast format might look:

  1. Introduction and rundown of features
  2. Feature 1
  3. Feature 2
  4. Etc
  5. Listener emails/social network comments
  6. Summary
  7. Outro

Listener feedback is always important for podcasts, but in a show where you might be accused of being low on content, it is particularly useful to involve the audience.

How to Pivot Your Podcast Format

You’re no doubt using one of these five podcast formats already. If you’re looking for a way to refresh things, you have two main options.

The first is to do a straightforward pivot to another format. Beware: this may not be straightforward. Perhaps you’re quite set in your ways, perhaps your preferred format isn’t possible with your hardware or circumstances. Pivoting will also require some planning, perhaps even long-term planning if you’re uncomfortable with the change.

A second option is to simply incorporate elements of the other formats, perhaps one at a time, over a matter of weeks. This is far easier to manage and lets you drop and add features based on how you think they went.

Importantly, reformatting your podcast isn’t going to take five minutes. It requires some thought and planning. Take the leap, by all means, but don’t rush in! You might also want to give your podcast a new cover design; you can create a podcast cover from scratch with Photoshop How to Create a Podcast Cover Using Photoshop This article will walk you through how to design and create a podcast cover from scratch using Photoshop. Read More .

Make Sure Your Podcast Is Fully Planned

We’ve looked at podcast formats above, but planning your podcast requires a bit more detail.

man and woman recording a podcast
Image Credit: Kzenon via Shutterstock

After selecting your format (or a combination thereof), a second set of choices needs to be made. These will help in the long-term development of your podcast, and they’ll also prove invaluable for each show you do.

Consider questions such as:

  • What is the podcast about? What is the ongoing theme?
  • Will you have the same segments each week? How many?
  • How will you transition between segments? Talking, or a sound effect?
  • How frequently will you publish your podcast? How long will they be?

Take time to consider and plan for all possibilities — 5–10 minutes of planning will give you enough detail to plan for all eventualities, and ultimately help you to produce interesting podcasts week in, week out.

And if you need help with a tool, check out these apps and software for recording podcasts The 6 Best Apps and Software for Recording Podcasts Anyone can create a podcast, but you've got to have the right tools. Here are the best apps and software for podcasters. Read More . While you’re at it, take a look at these unique podcast apps 5 Unique Podcast Apps When You Want to Enjoy Them Differently There are a sheer variety of podcasts you can enjoy. These five podcast apps give you different ways to listen to them. Read More . They’re great for both podcast creators and listeners! These simple ways to grow your podcast audience 6 Simple Ways to Grow Your Podcast Audience If you run a podcast but have found your audience has stalled, here's how to grow your podcast audience simply and effectively. Read More will also prove useful.

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  1. Gemi
    January 8, 2018 at 11:14 am

    So what is the preferred length of a solo podcast and the interview format? 8 was thinking of doing a split of 5-10 mins then a weekly 30 Min interview format — thoughts?

  2. James
    November 7, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Do people charge others to be on a podcast? Is it worth paying somebody to come and do your podcast?

  3. Samad Robinson
    May 24, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    This article was ultra helpful as I will be producing and starting my own podcast in the near future.