What types of podcasts do you enjoy listening to?
You may have a few hosts, shows or genres in your rotation, but did you know there are at least seven different types of podcasts out there for your listening pleasure?
Your personal taste has likely created some familiarity with a few types of podcasts, but limited your exposure to others. Here, we will look at some of the different types of podcasts that exist so you know what’s available to you—whether you’re looking for a new podcast to listen to, host and of course, produce.
What are the different types of podcasts?
There are approximately 900,000 podcasts and 30 million episodes produced today (1), but they likely fall into one of these seven categories:
- Interview style
- Solo host
- Audio drama/Fiction
- Microcast/Flash briefing
- Repurposed content
If you want to work on a podcast, it’s important that you know what these categories entail because your duties as a producer will vary depending on where you land. Below is a closer look at them to help you determine which is the best podcast for you.
Interview style podcast
The name makes this type of podcast somewhat self-explanatory. The host asks their guest a series of questions about a given topic.
Average Length: 43 minutes (2)
Popularity: Interview-style podcasts rank high in popularity. In 2019, The Joe Rogan Experience and The New York Times’ “The Daily” were first and second, respectively on Apple’s most popular podcasts lists. Both podcasts feature interviews. (3)
Difficulty To Produce: High. There’s a lot that goes into producing an interview style podcast—finding guests, scheduling the interview, research and editing the interview, which includes (at least) two participants.
Preparation & Scripting: Again, there’s a lot of upfront work involved with interview-style podcasts. Preparation begins with finding interesting guests for the host to interview. Once you’ve landed the guest, you’ll have to find a time that is agreeable for them to appear on the podcast. Depending on how formal the podcast is you may have to do a fair amount of research on THE guest to help formulate some questions. You might not have to do as much research if the podcast you produce is more of a free-flowing conversation, but it would be helpful to the conversation if there were a least some background information for the host to work off of.
Monetization Opportunity: High—if you can secure quality guests that will draw an audience. Podcast ad networks exist that can connect you with advertisers, negotiate rates and get the ad copy. These networks typically require the podcast to have an audience between 5,000 and 10,000 listeners per month to work with them however. (4) There are other ways to monetize a podcast that don’t require a minimum audience though, such as affiliate sponsorships. The host can recommend a service or product and point their audience to an affiliate link. (5)
Benefits: The host only has to carry part of the load in terms of speaking because they’re interviewing someone. An interview-style podcast could also bring a new audience that wants to hear what a specific guest has to say. Plus, interviews potentially lend themselves to interesting, engaging conversations that could be shared on different platforms—including the guest’s.
Downsides: An interview is often only as good as the guest. If the guest isn’t interesting or doesn’t have a lot to say, it could make for a bad episode. A lot of work goes into interview-style podcasts between scheduling, researching, etc.
This is another self-explanatory concept. The host presents commentary on themself. The host might take questions from callers or people who submit them online, but they are presenting their content without a guest or co-host.
Average Length: 43 minutes
Popularity: High. The Ben Shapiro show finished fifth on Apple’s most popular podcast list in 2019. (6)
Difficulty To Produce: Low to medium. The solo podcast is less difficult to produce because the host is doing most, if not all, of the talking. There are also no guests to book. Preparation would most likely include researching the topic the host will be talking about during a given episode—which could be a lot or a little depending on the topic. There also would not be as much editing work unless the episode needed to be a certain amount of time or ad spots needed to be worked into the broadcast.
Preparation & Scripting: Varies by topic. Again, the deeper the subject matter, the more research and preparation will be needed for the podcast. The Hardcore History podcast mentioned above takes a deep dive into historical and current events and episodes last two to three hours. That’s a solo podcast that would need a lot of preparation and scripting. Even the episode script isn’t written word-for-word beforehand, a loose outline covering the topic or topics can help keep the host on track.
A solo podcast focused on sports would require little scripting, as the host would be reacting to game results or expressing their opinion like on The Herd with Colin Cowherd.
Monetization Opportunity: High—especially with the right host. A solo podcast host with a big enough following would be attractive to advertisers. If a solo host has their own products, they could sell them through their podcast, too.
Benefits: There’s less production to worry about in terms of finding, researching and scheduling guests. Episodes are easier to edit since there’s only one person talking (unless the host takes audience calls).
Downsides: The episode’s success falls completely on the host. They have to be incredibly engaging to hold an audience’s attention for however long the episode lasts—even if it’s just 10 minutes. If a podcast host is going to fly solo for multiple hours like Dan Carlin, the subject matter better be interesting.
Sensing a pattern when it comes to the names of these podcasts? You can likely gather from the name of this podcast, that it’s the opposite of the solo podcasts. Multi-host podcasts feature more than one person behind the microphone. These podcasts can feature conversations just between the hosts or include an interview element.
Average Length: 43 minutes
Popularity: High. Multi-host podcasts like “Pardon My Take” and “Stuff You Should Know” finished in the Podtrac’s Top 20 Podcast list in February 2020. (7) Much like solo and interview style podcasts, the multi-host format’s popularity depends on who the host and/or guests are.
Difficulty To Produce: Hard. The more voices involved, the more difficult it can be to keep the discussion on track. Multi-host podcasts have the potential for tangents, which can put the broadcast over the desired time. There’s also the chance that people speak over one another, especially if the hosts and/or guests aren’t in the same room.
Preparation & Scripting: Medium to high. The podcast’s subject matter will dictate how much prep and scripting is needed for this type of format. For example, the “Couldn’t Help But Wonder” podcast looks back at past episodes of HBO’s “Sex and the City.” The hosts re-watch each episode before recording and follow a loose outline (“Which character were you this week?,” break down key scenes, answer the “Question of the Episode), etc. They probably have some notes and thoughts, but the conversation is freer flowing, so preparation is not as heavy.
The “Stuff You Should Know” podcast aims to give its audience a working knowledge of a particular topic like student loans, dog training or the history of soda. The hosts would need to study these subjects ahead of time to fulfill their goal of educating their audience.
Monetization Opportunity: High. The right collection of hosts can bring in an audience size that entices advertisers—especially if the podcast subject matter is interesting. Multi-host podcasts can also find products they think are attractive to their audience and share an affiliate link.
Benefits: Similar to the interview style podcast, multi-host podcasts decrease the amount any one person needs to talk. If the co-hosts have good chemistry, their podcast can be a fun listen for the audience. Plus, there are more people available to come up with topic ideas if the podcast doesn’t have a built-in subject matter like “Couldn’t Help But Wonder.”
Downsides: The disadvantages of a multi-host podcast are the same as what makes them harder to produce. More voices means more editing, whether it’s cutting time, masking when people are talking over one another or dealing with connection issues if a podcast is being done over a telecommunications site like Skype or Zoom. Plus, multiple hosts means finding time when they’re all available to record.
Investigative podcasts examine mysteries or an inquiry over the course of multiple episodes. The fact that these podcasts don’t just reveal the investigation’s findings, but document them over the course of the show is part of the draw.
Average Length: 43 minutes
Popularity: High, especially due to “Serial’s” success in 2014. Investigative podcasts have become so popular that the Pulitzer Prize Board announced a new category for “audio reporting.” (8)
Difficulty To Produce: High. The investigative podcast relies on much more than the host(s) or any particular guests. Journalists, editors, sound designers are instrumental in making an investigative podcast worth listening to. A lot of audio elements are often included in these podcasts: phone calls, parts of interviews, etc. (9)
Preparation & Scripting: High. If a lot of research is required for a one-on-one interview, imagine how much will be necessary for a podcast centered on an investigation. Preparation will include gathering background on the particular investigation, further investigating, securing interviews with critical parties, and collecting audio—all before recording the actual episode
Monetization Opportunity: Medium to high. At the height of “Serial’s” popularity, an ad spot cost approximately $25 per 1,000 downloads or streams—Serial had more than 19 million streams or downloads, which would put the cost of an ad at $500,000! (10)
Not every investigative podcast can expect to be the next “Serial” however, but with an audience size worthy of an advertiser’s attention could be had with an intriguing enough case. Just remember there could be a lot of upfront costs with this type of production in terms of paying the staff necessary to put this production together.
Benefits: These podcasts can be popular if the topic is intriguing—leading to a lot of return listeners who want to know what happens next.
Downsides: There’s a lot of upfront work between research and scheduling interviews to pull this type of podcast together. Production is not as simple as getting to the microphone and hitting, “Record.”
Audio Drama/Fiction podcast
Believe it or not, there was a time when families gathered around the radio to listen to their weekly programs—like we do with television today. Audiences had to use their imaginations to picture what was happening during showings of popular titles like “Superman”, “The Lone Ranger” and “Dragnet.” (11)
Now, there are podcasts that follow the same model! Audio podcasts are formatted a lot like television shows—scripted with the intention of entertaining an audience. The fictional podcasts come in the form of comedy, drama and even musicals.
Average Length: 43 minutes
Popularity: Medium. Audio drama podcasts still find themselves below the ranks of the other podcast categories mentioned here. It could be a good space to break into because it’s not as crowded as the interview-style podcast avenue.
Difficulty To Produce: High. In some ways, producing an audio drama podcast is like producing a television show, minus the visual aspect. The script has to be written before anything gets started, voice talent has to be gathered to read their parts and afterwards music and sound effects might have to be added—along with any audio clean up work to make sure the dialogue flows well.
Preparation & Scripting: Even improvised audio drama podcasts follow something of a loose outline. If the podcast is 100 percent scripted, it will take some time for that to be written. Depending on how quickly scripts are written, there could be some time between episodes—unless production is all done ahead of time and the podcasts can be released on a consistent basis.
Monetization Opportunity: Given the lower popularity level compared to its counterparts, there might not be as high of a monetization potential with audio dramas. However the higher profile voice actors involved, the bigger the audience and the better chance to advertise—not too different from television shows.
Benefits: The field is less crowded than other podcasts (for now). Audio drama podcasts are a great way to showcase your script writing skills.
Downsides: Much like the investigative podcast, there’s a lot of upfront work involved: script writing, booking and scheduling voice talent as well as backend work: sound editing.
Microcast/News briefing podcast
Microcast and news briefing podcasts are short, typically 10 minutes or less. Microcasts usually offer a lesson or advice on how to do something better and are instructional and/or informational in nature. The “Marketing School” podcast was mentioned earlier in the multi-host podcast category, but it fits here too as most episodes fall under the 10-minute mark.
Flash briefings meanwhile are snippets of information updates that might cover news, sports or industry information. Flash briefings information is usually obtained through smart speaker devices like Alexa or Google Home requests.
Average Length: 10 minutes or less (14)
Popularity: Medium to high. Microcasts are ideal for people who do not want to spend 30 minutes to an hour for information they can get in three to five. For flash briefings, smartphones are still the primary device people use to listen to podcasts, (12) but podcast listeners are more likely to own a smart speaker. As smart speakers become a more common household item, flash briefings popularity is likely to rise, too.
Difficulty To Produce: Medium to high. It might seem easy to put out a piece of content that’s less than 10 minutes, but sometimes it’s harder to be brief. Think about an advertisement—is it easier to get a message across on a two-sided direct mail letter or a billboard where you fit six to seven words, max? This is especially true of flash briefings, which involves pulling short segments from either an existing podcast or interview and condensing all of it into a few minutes of usual content.
Preparation & Scripting: Since microcasts and flash briefings aren’t very long, there’s not a lot of scripting involved. The production work comes in the preparation—microcasts are meant to inform or instruct, so there’s still research involved. Presenting information so it’s useful in less than 10 minutes is the challenge. The same goes for flash briefings—when a user says, “Alexa, play my flash briefings” and your podcast is part of the rundown it needs to be short and interesting so the user doesn’t skip thorough it.
Monetization Opportunity: Not quite as high as other podcast types as Amazon doesn’t allow Alexa to read ad copy. (13)
Benefits: Microcasts are a great way to cater to people who don’t want to spend a lot of time listening to podcasts for information. If someone in a hurry wants to learn about writing a blog and can choose between a five-minute podcast or an hour-long one, which do you think they will chose? They might revisit the longer one when they have more time, but at the moment, the microcast is more appealing.
Flash briefings present an opportunity to showcase your podcast’s content, although in shorter form. If what’s presented is interesting enough, the smart speaker user may be inclined to visit your full-length podcast at another time.
Downsides: Brevity isn’t always best when you’re trying to showcase your knowledge on a particular topic. It’s great for the listener if they can capture your expertise in 10 minutes or less, but there are times you might have more to say on the matter. In those instances, there is nothing wrong with breaking your microcast into multiple parts so you can stay under that 10-minute threshold and get your full message across.
Popular podcast genres
Now that you’ve seen the different types of podcasts that are available, let’s look at the genres they could all into. Yes, podcast type is just part of what you need to consider when choosing what kind of podcast is best for you. You’ll also need to decide if you want work with a podcast that focuses on:
- True Crime
- Pop Culture
There are more than 20 podcast genres listed here and these are only the beginning! Not only could more genres be listed here (lawn care anyone?), but also there’s potential for subsections of the genres mentioned here. For example, the “Books” genre could be broken up info fiction, non-fiction, young adult, adventure, etc. The fitness genre could be divided into multiple categories too: weight lifting, running, yoga, cycling and more.
The great thing is if you have a podcast type and genre in mind that you’d like to work with, there’s a great chance it already exists—you just have to look.
What is the best type of podcast for you?
We’ve explored the types of podcasts and some potential genres within each. Now it’s time for you to think about which one works best for you. It’s your decision and there’s rule saying you can’t work for different types of podcasts, but consider the following as you navigate through this exciting world of podcasting:
- Interview-style podcasts might be a good fit if you enjoy, or think you’ll enjoy, all the aspects of being a “producer”—searching for guests, scheduling interviews, helping with research and lining up the interview questions as well as the backend work of editing the interview so it isn’t too long and sounds like a natural conversation.
- The same could be said for multi-host interviews. You’ll be taking on all of the duties of a podcast producer, but with the added challenge of dealing with more voices—the hosts and any guests that they might be interviewing.
- If you don’t want to deal with as much upfront preparation, but enjoy the editing part of the process, consider working with a solo host podcast. There still might be some research involved (see Hardcore History), but you don’t have to worry about booking and scheduling guests and there’s only one voice you’ll have to edit.
- Investigative podcasts are a lot of work, especially in the beginning, but you’ll likely get to work with a lot of interesting people. If you like the team aspect of work and get satisfaction from seeing a big production come together, you might be a good fit to work on an investigative podcast.
- If you’ve ever wanted to work on a television show or movie, but could not break in, the audio drama podcast could be the next best thing. Like TV and movies, these podcasts are scripted and are meant to entertain. The production work would be similar to that of an animated show when it comes to handling voice actors, putting the sound together, etc. Plus, if you have an interest in screenwriting, this could be a chance to share some of your ideas.
- Are you good at condensing big chunks of information into bite-sized chunks, but for the ears? If so, consider working on a microcast or flash briefing podcast. One of the biggest challenges a podcaster might have when reducing their content to fit in these platforms is what to keep and what to cut. Your ability to keep their message alive after drastically cutting the original content will be more than welcome.
Learn how to become a podcast producer
Congratulations on deciding what is the best type of podcast for you! Now it’s time to take that decision and take a step further–become a podcast producer. Not sure how to get started? Check out Podcast Assist where you will master the skill and strategies needed to launch, manage and grow small business’ podcasts.