Podcast Liberation: Set Your Podcast Free


5. The Documentary

The documentary podcast is one of the most compelling and most engaging formats in the industry. Documentary podcasts will include many different formats, such as solo recordings, interviews and conversations, and the main thread will be the narrative that the host weaves around it all. As the host, you direct the story, relating what’s happening in each clip, and how it relates to the narrative. This narration is weave in with the outside recordings to create a seamless production.


Generally documentary podcasts will tell one seamless story, so there’s less structure than a traditional podcast. The narrator will generally introduce the point of this episode, and then segue into the external clips, weaving them together with more narrative. Then a conclusion and outro will be added at the end to tie up the episode.


  • Can be hugely compelling if you have the skill to tell a great story.
  • Lots of variety of voice, setting and background noise.


  • Very, very time consuming to produce
  • To do it right, requires lots of external recordings which have to be transcribed and picked through for the good bits
  • Takes quite a lot of skill to create a good story. Not something everyone can do right away.


  • The Serial Podcast – one of the most compelling shows around, and it shows in their listening figures.
  • The Startup Podcast – an audio documentary about starting a business. Gripping!



If you can do this, then do it. Done well, it’s probably the most engaging format there is. But, then again, it takes so much work that it’s not even close to possible for most people. And, it’s possible to tell a great, compelling story in a solo show, or any of the other formats, so is it really worth the effort? Only you will be able to tell in your own context.