As you plan to launch a podcast, you’ll have to make many important decisions that will shape the premise of your show. Choosing a podcast format will set the pace for the content you create and the type of listeners you attract. While you want to nail down your podcast format early on in the planning process, be open to pivoting later if you need to adjust your goals and the changing demands of your workload or schedule. Since it’s common for podcasters to pivot after launching, consider all your options and read on to determine what podcast format is right for you.
As the name suggests, a solo or monologue show features the podcast host and no one else. While solo shows require you to carry the conversation, there’s no need to coordinate with co-hosts and guests.
Solo podcasts are a good option for those looking to build their authority in a niche or have specific expertise they want to share. Monologues are also easier to edit since there is only one audio track vs. multiple.
A solo show may be a good option for business owners and service providers like coaches, course creators, and consultants. Examples of solo shows include The Keenya Kelly Podcast and Freelance Friday Podcast.
Interviews are a go-to for many, making it one of the most popular podcast formats. A host (or co-host) interviews guests, sharing their unique perspectives, experiences, and expertise. Hosts typically introduce the guest briefly at the beginning of the episode and guide the conversation by asking various questions. Interview shows typically require prep time and sourcing guest bios and photos ahead of time. Examples of interview shows include The Purpose of Money Podcast and Yo Quiero Dinero.
Note: Hosting a solo or interview-based show is not mutually exclusive. You can host a solo show and occasionally interview guests, and vice versa.
Hosted by two or more people with great chemistry, conversational podcasts thrive off organic conversations and banter. This more relaxed format requires less preparation with little to no scripting. Listen to episodes of Earn Your Leisure for what this podcast format sounds like.
Flex your creative muscle by hosting a fictional storytelling podcast.
Like a TV show, each episode unveils the thickening plot, and there are often twists and turns that keep listeners guessing what will happen next. Some audio dramas are narrated by one person, while others feature voice actors and immersive sound effects.
While this is the least common podcast format and requires the most creative work, it’s easy to stand out and build an engaged audience since the market isn’t saturated.
Have an idea for a show but do not have ongoing plans to keep it running? Consider creating a limited series that can range from a few episodes to several seasons. Limited series can include any of the aforementioned formats, including non-fiction storytelling.
Millennial Wealth Builders is an example of a limited series highlighting Women of Color building wealth. Check out other financial literacy projects funded by Plutus Foundation here.
How to pick episode length?
Although podcast episode length is a frequently asked question, it depends on how much content you share. Instead of focusing on episode length, allow your content to determine the length for you. That means delivering on the episode promise avoiding rambling or adding extra fluff to lengthen episodes.
Studies show that most podcasts range from 20-40 minutes, with an average of 38 minutes. However, plenty of podcasts regularly run over 1 hour, and bite-sized shows less than 15 minutes.
As The Thought Card Podcast host, some of my episodes last 20 minutes while others push the 45-minute mark. I do not try to drag the conversation on, but I also do my diligence to cover as many points as possible. When there’s nothing left to say, I sign off – no harm, no foul.
Audience Listening Habits
Your audience’s attention span or time commitment may be another thing you want to consider. For example, if your podcast caters to busy moms with children under five years old, it may be more difficult for them to commit to a 1-hour podcast. So, leverage your stats to make strategic decisions.
After publishing your first ten episodes, dig into your Apple Podcasts and Spotify analytics to determine on average how long your current audience listens to most episodes. Additionally, survey your listeners, asking them about their listening habits. The more data you collect, the more informed decisions you can make about your show.
Use tools like Google Forms, Typeform, or Jotform to ask questions like:
- How long do you prefer to listen to podcast episodes?
- Are you multitasking when listening to the show?
- If so, what are you typically doing (exercising, laundry, etc.)?
- Do you prefer solo or interview episodes?
How frequently do you publish new episodes?
Weekly and bi-weekly are the most common podcast release schedules, followed by monthly and daily. Overall, a podcast’s release schedule depends on how much time you can dedicate to your show without getting burnt out. Due to the high demands of running a podcast, more podcasters are moving to a biweekly format which offers them the time and space to create new episodes and promote past ones.
During that time, listeners also have enough time to listen to the most recent episode and binge the archives. There’s such a thing as publishing too much content and overwhelming yourself and your listeners.
Another benefit to publishing less frequently is that you only have to plan for 12 episodes (monthly), 26 episodes (bi-weekly) vs. 52 episodes (weekly).
What day should I publish new podcast episodes?
There is no right or wrong day to publish new episodes, and what I will say is to pick a release day and time and stick to it. Your audience will expect to hear from you at whatever increments you set, and some may even build your show into their daily routine. Consistently delivering on your promise is how you build trust and foster a loyal following over time.