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July 6, 2022

Building A Strong Foundation - An Overview of Podcast Formats

In today’s modern media landscape, podcasting has become one of the most effective ways for content creators of all varieties to express themselves, connect with their audience, and build their brand.

What makes podcasting such an attractive option for content creators are a few key factors:

  • Greater accessibility (anyone can make a podcast)
  • Capitalizing on today’s digital media landscape (anyone with internet access can listen to a podcast)
  • Enhanced creativity offered through a wide range of possibilities with formats, pre and post-production, and content-repurposing

The magic of post-production practices such as editing and mixing, along with sound elements like music and effects, can turn even a simple conversation into an immersive experience.

Podcasting can turn your short story into an epic audio drama, or you and your friends’ banter into a fully-produced comedy show.

Furthermore, podcasting offers creators a channel through which to deliver longer-form content, and deeply connect with audiences.

Before podcasting, never before has audio media been so accessible to so many people, and so limitless and open to creative expression.

So what types of podcasts are there?

One of the beautiful parts about podcasts are just how simple many of them are. Some are nothing more than an interesting conversation that happened to be recorded.

Broadly speaking, podcasts can be narrowed down into a few different categories. Those categories are what we'll be discussing in this article.

Whether it’s one person, two, or more, certain types of shows tend to have a lower cost of entry. This can be true in the aspects of time and money, as well as in the amount of preparatory work required before it’s time to begin recording.

Here are some of the most popular low cost-of-entry podcasts:

Solo/duo/panel

Technically, a podcast can be as simple as pressing record and delivering a message. This can be in the form of a monologue (solo), or dialogue between two or more people.

Usually, these more accessible types of podcasts are those with more of an emphasis on conversation rather than narrative direction. 

For instance, what some podcasters will do is choose a topic - maybe one related to a current event - and then get a group of people together who are willing to discuss the topic.

This recorded conversation is what will become the podcast. You can leave the audio raw, or - as most people do - add a dash of tasteful editing to clean it up. From there, you could add an intro and an outro. 

Boom! You have yourself a podcast.

And even simpler yet - in the case of a monologue - some podcasters will record only themselves speaking on a particular topic.

While there is usually a clear host (or co-hosts) with a prepared outline - maybe some predetermined questions or talking points - the format is generally very loose and conversational.

And of course, sometimes there is no pre-production required at all aside from scheduling and maybe a green-room introduction between speakers. 

On free-form comedy podcasts, for instance, there are usually no prompts at all - only pure conversation. The comedians’ gift of gab makes for entertainment in and of itself.

Simply put: your first podcast could be as simple as sitting down with some friends and having a chat about a topic that you share a passion over.

As you can see, with only a little bit of work, truly anyone can come up with an idea for a podcast. Once you have your idea outlined, and access to necessary equipment, you’re ready to record!

Need help recording, producing, or getting started?

Contact Towncast Studios today

Interview

One of the most popular forms of podcast out there is the interview. Interviews usually consist of one interviewer (the person asking questions) and one interviewee (the person answering), though there can be more on either side.

Interviews are popular because they tend to feature interviewees who are knowledgeable about a particular subject matter. 

In this way, interview podcasts excel at being informative - though many interviews serve as great entertainment as well!

Some interviews are performed in a Q&A, information-forward style. Generally, these interviewers will keep conversation to a minimum and mainly serve the listener by asking questions. 

In this way, the listener’s attention is more easily focused on the interviewee, who is able to answer fully and without disruption. 

Prior to recording these traditional types of interview podcasts, there is often preparation amongst the participants. They may run through the questions, or go over specific things that they do or do not want to touch on in the conversation.

Pro Tip: In the case of any podcast, it always pays to make sure that everyone is totally comfortable before recording begins. This includes not only subject matter but also bathroom breaks.

While some degree of preparation is traditionally a key part of an interview, some interviewers find that they get the most out of their conversations by keeping things more relaxed. 

These interviews might be more conversational, and the interviewer may have just as much to say as the interviewee. Sometimes, the tables turn as the interviewee becomes the interviewer!

Interviewing is truly an art form. A good interviewer will know when to ask a question - and how - sometimes needing to pivot on the fly.

Storytelling

Many podcast genres require a little more preparation - i.e. work before, during, and after recording. 

A great example of these larger-scale project are storytelling-based podcasts.

Luckily, if you find a general subject matter for your show that you are genuinely interested in, along with a format that works for what you want to achieve, this preparation can feel more like fun than work.

There are two main types of storytelling podcasts:

Theatric

Let’s say you’ve written a short story and you want to hear it brought to life as an audio drama. With your script and your story prepared, you could hire a production team to produce the work along with you. 

Professional voice actors could be brought in to bring your characters to life. Quality editing will clean up any errors, with varying degrees of detail depending on what you want.

Music could be added, as well as layers of soundscapes and sound effects. In essence, you are the director and the stereo spectrum of audio is your toolkit to set the scenes.

When all is said and done, listener will be captivated as your story unfolds in their ears so vividly that they can almost see it.

Investigative

Or maybe you’re more interested in investigative storytelling, such as true-crime podcasts.

One of the reasons podcasts have so surged in popularity over the last decade is because of shows like Serial and My Favorite Murder which chronicle real-life criminal investigations - past and ongoing.

These well-researched documentations of unsolved mysteries or true crime stories can make for captivating audio experiences.

These types of podcasts require a high amount of preparation, cooperation, and production in order to create - often taking dozens of hours to complete from start to finish. 

But the effort required to create shows like these is affirmed by their award-winning quality and chart-topping popularity.

Hybrid Podcasts

Some podcasts combine more than one of the aforementioned podcast types. A single show may mix up its content by sometimes featuring monologues, interviews, or panel conversations.

Or, for instance, an investigative podcast may weave theatrical storytelling in with one or more interviews. Add in some tasteful music and some clever sound effects and you might just have the next big show on your hands!

One of the most fun parts of podcasting is the scope of creativity that it offers.

The landscape for podcasts is evolving as fast as its ever-expanding library of content. Podcasting itself is a large community, and within it are countless smaller communities with specific focuses (and thus, audiences). 

This community aspect is a hint towards one of the directions podcasting seems to be evolving…

Introducing,

Towncasting

Let’s say a town, a city, or a community has a thriving (or up-and-coming) podcast presence. Or maybe it doesn't, but the area is rich with stories just waiting to be shared. What if someone were to take the unique elements of that community - its people, places, and stories - and turn it all into content?

Introducing Towncast Studios and its verbal counterpart: Towncasting!

The idea here is hyperlocal, homegrown, geo-focused content built by and for the community from which it is being created.

Or maybe you live in a city with a thriving presence of content creators. As original and successful as these creators may be on their own, they may be missing out on some exciting collaboration with their like-minded neighbors.

So what’s to stop that community from forming a network that supports itself and excels its collective growth?

A wise man once said: "Rising tides lift all ships."

Whether your aim is to use podcasting to share local news with your fellow townsfolk, to build a local network, or to advertise your brand, Towncast Studios can help.

And whether you’re recording live at one of our physical studios, recording on-site at your location, or working digitally with one of our associates on improving your podcast’s performance, we have all the tools you need to achieve your goals.

Learn more about Towncast Studios

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We hope this article helped to explain the different types of podcasts to you, as well as a taste of what each kind of show entails. This list is not exhaustive - creators are coming up with new and interesting podcast formats all the time. So don't be afraid to think outside the format box and get creative.

Podcasting is unique in being a one-size-fits-all medium. As long as you have a voice and a means to record, your only limitation is your imagination.

No matter your stylistic preference, your audience is out there.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what type of sonic picture you want to paint on the podcasting canvas.

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