Podcast Formats: the Complete Guide

When it comes to Podcasting, there are as many ways to go about it as there are stars in the sky. And, if you’ve every tried to learn a touch of theoretical cosmology, then you’ll know they’re almost as hard to figure out! Today I’m going to try to demystify the world of the format,

Podcast Formats - the Complete Guide

When it comes to Podcasting, there are as many ways to go about it as there are stars in the sky. And, if you've every tried to learn a touch of theoretical cosmology, then you'll know they're almost as hard to figure out!

Today I'm going to try to demystify the world of the format, and help you choose the one that'll feel right for you.

How do I Choose a Format for my Podcast?

There's no need to get caught up in this stage though. Your podcast format is like a good coat. Over your podcasting life, you'll try on every type. You'll find one that fits like a glove, that just seems right, and you'll wear it for a while. But then, as the seasons turn, you'll find yourself hankering for another.

Your format changes over time, and it should, depending on the feedback of your listeners.

So, the secret is to experiment in the early days. Try a few different methods over your first 20 episodes. See which ones incite a lot of feedback, and which ones fit your personality.

Even later in your show, mix it up a little from time to time. Experiment and ask your listeners what they think. That's the driver for change, for innovation in your show, and that's what keeps people interesting. Alongside amazing content of course!

The Range of Podcast Formats

So, what do we have to choose from?

The Solo Podcast

Dan Carlin – Hardcore History

Dan's podcast is loooooooong (3hrs+ per episode), in-depth and just him. No FX, no fanciness, just one bit of intro music and his voice. But somehow he makes it really, really engaging. It's the perfect example of amazing, engaging scripting.

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Listen to Hardcore History here

The Co-Hosted Podcast


This is a web design show hosted by the two co-founders of an agency – Paul Boag and Marcus Lillington.

It shows the way co-hosting can work really well to showcase personality and produce a really engaging experience. The banter and back and forth between Paul and Marcus is hilarious to listen to, and the question and answer format really adds to the depth of the show.

Listen to Boagworld here

The Interview Podcast

Excellence Expected

This an interview show run by Mark Asquith aimed at Small Businesses.

It's a very organised one, following a standard structure and ending the show with a request for 3 solid actionable tips. But Mark isn't afraid to delve into interesting stuff during the interview, going off-plan when needed. This is a great example of how to do interviews well.

Listen to Excellence Expected here

The Roundtable

A roundtable refers to the idea of getting a larger number of participants together to discuss a set topic over a set period of time. Normally there would be at least one regular host, if not two or three. Then the rest of the ‘table’ is made up of guests who are expert in the topic at hand.

The host or hosts will direct the rountable, asking questions and steering the topic, so that everyone gets a turn and contributes to a great conversation on the topic.

Roundtables can be a great way to build authority in your niche as it allows you to invite prominent guests to the show and produce great content from their experience. Most of the logistics are very simple – editing, content planning, etc – but organising guests in the early day can be hard.

The Paperclipping Roundtable

This is a lighthearted look at scrapbooking, and a show which follows the roundtable format to good effect.

Listen to the Paperclipping Roundtable here

The Documentary

The Startup Podcast

One of my favourite shows, the Startup Podcast is a really transparent look behind the scenes of starting up a business. Season 1 followed the founding of Gimlet Media, the producers of the show itself, and they've moved on to other companies since.

This format takes a lot more time in creating and editing, but produces a much more engaging, high quality product. Again, not for everyone though.

Listen to the Startup Podcast here

UK Business Startup

This show was produced to offer a full guide to starting your own business. It's based in the UK, but much of the material applies worldwide.

The first series involved interviews with around 10 different experts and it was all woven into a ‘startup' narrative over 8 episodes. To give you an idea of timescales for this type of show – each episode took in the region of 4 days to make.

Listen to UK Business Startup here


It is possible to do a lower level of complexity, but simulate the same level of quality as the standard documentary. The results wont be as in-depth, possibly not as compelling, but it can be a real stepping stone up from the standard podcasting formats.

These are two episodes that we were contracted to create for Edinburgh Napier University in 2015. I interviewed the subjects, picked out the best bits and then created a narrative to carry it along. These took around 1 day to create, in total.

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What Format Do You Follow?

I'd love to hear if I've missed anything.

  • Is there a format you use that you don't think I've covered here?
  • What format do you use in your own show, and why?

Let me know in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “Podcast Formats: the Complete Guide

  1. Hi

    Thanks for this piece. I have one question. How popular is it to have one constant host and different guest hosts for different episodes of the podcast? Is it a common practice? Let me know. Thanks.

    1. Hi Rojita, yes that can work really well for some shows. It can be a nice alternative to a standard ‘interview’ show because you can jointly present a topic as main host and guest host, thus getting across your own authority as well as the guests. It tends to more easily lead to a nice conversation too. Good choice of podcast format!

  2. Colin,
    Thank you. I was freaking out a little about the perfect start format. Your article was on point and provided the clarity and encouragement I needed to continue my launch plans with confidence. 🙂 Melinda

    I included my podcast website, but it’s not open to the public yet. It will be soon (www.resourcehack.com)

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