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Choosing A Podcast Format & Best Practices To Follow

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Choosing A Podcast Format & Best Practices To Follow

Choosing a podcast format is one of the first key decisions you need to make when producing a podcast. Whether yours is a one-person show, features regular guest interviews, or tells a dramatized story, there are pros and cons to each podcast format. 

At Riverside, we’re all about helping podcasters produce the highest-quality shows possible, so we’ve put together this guide to the most popular podcast formats. It’s worth noting that all of these formats also apply to video podcasts. That means if you decide to start recording visuals as well as audio, there’s no need to change podcast format!

Keep reading to find which format is best for your show and discover our best practices for each one.

Why Picking The Right Podcast Format Matters

First of all, your podcast format is the way your show’s content is organized and structured. The majority of podcasts stick to one format throughout their show. This creates consistency for listeners, who know what to expect from each episode of the podcast and when to expect it. 

Sticking to a podcast format also helps you as the producer. It makes it easier to plan your content, schedule and invite guests, and keep up with your workload, as you already know what shape your podcast will take. Doing the same format each week also allows you to learn and get better at podcasting.

Finally, having a consistent and engaging podcast format fosters word-of-mouth marketing. It makes it easier for your listeners to describe and recommend your show to their friends and family, an important free promotion allowing you to grow your podcast!

So, let’s dive into the most popular podcast formats out there...

Solo Podcast Format

Also known as monologue podcasts, this format features one single host presenting the entire show. On occasion, solo podcasts will mix things up by featuring a guest, but overall they are one-person shows.

say your mind podcast

Say Your Mind by Kelechi Okafor is a great example of a solo podcast format. While her show occasionally features guests, it’s predominantly a one-host show in which Kelechi shares her unique take on Tarot, current events, and pop culture.

  • Great for: having the freedom and flexibility to do the entire podcast by yourself; having a close relationship with your audience; creating and maintaining a personal brand.
  • Challenges: you have to carry the entire conversion yourself, which is a lot of pressure both for content planning and for your voice - speaking for a full hour or more without break.
  • Tips: make sure to plan your scripts well before starting to record.

Also, if you’re doing all the hosting, delegate some of the other responsibilities for creating your podcast. For example, using Riverside, you can add a Producer to your virtual studio. They can then monitor and control your mic levels and polish the sound with our Magic Editor feature.

Multi-Host Podcast Format

In a conversational podcast format, two or more regular hosts chat about different topics within their chosen niche (politics, sports, music, true crime, etc.) throughout the show.

How did this get made podcast

One of the many examples of multi-host or conversational podcasts is How Did This Get Made? In this show, actor-comedian Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas tear apart the most outlandish bad movies out there.

  • Great for: sharing the talking, content creation, and other tasks related to producing a podcast; giving listeners the experience of being part of an organic conversation.
  • Challenges: investing in the right podcast hardware and software to ensure a high-quality recording can be expensive; editing audio tracks from multiple people can be harder than one single file. 
  • Tips: most importantly, make sure the hosts have good banter together!


Record your podcast with Riverside to ensure studio-quality audio (and video) wherever you and your co-hosts or guests are. Riverside also gives you more control in post-production by recording audio tracks separately as standard and uploads as you’re recording to reduce the risk of losing your work.

Interview Podcast Format

One of the most popular podcast formats, these feature one or more hosts interviewing a different guest each episode.

Drinks with Binks is an example of an interview podcast format recorded with Riverside. In the show, sportscaster and journalist Julie Stewart-Binks chats with athletes, entertainers, and other celebrities about their lives, careers, and anything else that comes up! Other famous podcast interviews include The TED Interview With Chris Anderson and Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

  • Great for: maintaining a good balance between consistency (fostering a host-audience relationship, listeners knowing what the content will be) and unique insight every episode thanks to different interviewees.
  • Challenges: finding guests to interview; organizing remote recordings.
  • Tips: follow our guide to finding and preparing guests to interview on your podcast. Use Riverside to schedule and record studio-quality podcast interviews wherever you and your interviewee are located.

Panel Podcast Format

Similar to the interview podcast format, these roundtable-style podcasts feature one host and multiple guests in each episode, like a panel show on TV.

Political Gabfest podccast by Slate

Slate’s Political Gabfest is probably one of the best-known panel podcasts. Journalist co-hosts Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz discuss all things US politics with different guests each episode.

  • Great for: taking pressure off the host, as there’s lots of different input and unique insight from different guests each episode.
  • Challenges: finding multiple guests relevant to each episode’s topic and organizing recordings around each of their schedules; balancing out the conversation to make sure everyone is heard equally; effective editing of multiple audio tracks.

Tips: follow the best practices for interview format podcasts and use Riverside’s Magic Editor feature to reduce background noise and equalize microphone levels before post-production (or to publish the podcast immediately).

Narrative Podcast Format

Non-Fiction

The non-fiction storytelling podcast format covers a range of topics, from true crime (like Radio Rental) to everyday narratives (like radio show-turned-podcast This American Life, a good example of repurposed content), to business and brand stories like Creator Economics, which is produced using Riverside.

  • Great for: entertaining and educating listeners at the same time; getting information across in a different way.
  • Challenges: finding people to tell their stories and doing extensive research to be accurate (your listeners will let you know if not!) can be time-consuming, meaning a potential lack of consistency in publishing episodes.
  • Tips: plan your content well in advance to leave room for deadlines; incorporate other media like sound effects, music, and TV clips to add dimension to your stories using a podcast soundboard like Riverside’s Media Board.

Fiction

Also known as podcast theater, the fiction storytelling podcast format takes a similar form to radio dramas, with stories told across multiple episodes.

Two up limetown podcast

A really popular example of a fiction narrative podcast is Limetown, the dramatic tale of over three hundred men, women, and children who disappear from a small town in Tennessee. 

Having proved popular, Limetown has since been made into a TV series and a prequel novel has been released, demonstrating the potential of this format for growing and monetizing your podcast.

  • Great for: creating sticky audiences - if done well, your listeners will always tune in to find out what happens next; having very little competition - as it’s the least popular format, your show is more likely to stand out; creative content.
  • Challenges: you’ll be competing with other, more popular drama sources like TV, film, and radio rather than podcasts; it’s a very niche format so you might struggle to find the right audience; a lot of planning, content creation, and production is involved (podcast scriptwriting, casting, rehearsals, etc.)
  • Tips: plan your content in advance including scripting the entire story to avoid publishing delays; follow our guide to producing a podcast to ensure you don’t miss anything out; boost dramatization by incorporating other sound clips using Riverside’s Media Board, and make sure you hook listeners with your intro (podcasts lose up to 35 percent of listeners in the first 5 minutes!).

DIY Podcast Format

Finally, while most podcasters usually stick to one structure for their show, some mix it up with their own unique podcast formats. 

have you heard george's podcast?

George the Poet’s award-winning and critically-acclaimed show Have You Heard George’s Podcast? is, in theory, an example of a solo podcast format. However, the host’s unique blend of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction storytelling definitely earns the show a place in this DIY podcast format section. 

  • Great for: being unique and therefore appealing to seasoned podcast listeners looking for something different, or non-fans of podcasts, as it’s so flexible.
  • Challenges: a lot of work is required to conceptualize and create such unique content, especially as a solo host.
  • Tip: do your research! Decide whether there’s an audience for the unique content you are creating before doing all the hard work in producing your podcast.

Which Podcast Format Is Right For You?

Having read all the pros and cons for each podcast format in this article, one format may be standing out to you. However, if you’re still undecided, ask yourself the following questions before choosing the right format for your show: 

  • What’s the best way to convey your show’s information? If your podcast aims to give expert advice, an interview or panel format is probably best. Whereas, if you’re creating comedy content, a multi-host podcast will allow for flowing conversation and banter.
  • What’s the best way to make your show stand out? Research and analyze what other shows with similar content are doing, and go for something different (or the same but better!) so listeners want to give your show a try.
  • What best matches your personality and style? At the end of the day, you need to enjoy creating your content as much as guests and audiences need to enjoy taking part and listening. What will you find easiest and most enjoyable to produce? Go with your gut.

Pick a Format You Love & Produce a Quality Podcast

Choosing the right podcast format for your show is an important decision based on your content, your competition, and you as a producer or host. What works for one podcast won’t necessarily work for another. We can’t tell you which is the best choice for your show, that’s up to you.

However, we can help you plan and create a studio-quality podcast wherever you are and no matter which format you choose. Discover more about what you need to create your show with our beginner’s guide to starting a podcast in 2021. Or, if you’re ready to go, start your free trial with Riverside and get putting all your planning into practice!

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