Technical Expertise

8 Popular Podcast Formats

Last updated on: 
July 27, 2022

There are a variety of podcast formats that you can test out for your series, we broke down eight of the most popular formats.

There'a not just one podcast format to try, there is a huge range that you can explore when creating your podcast series. All of the descriptions below are just rough formats -- it’s truly up to you to personalize however you like and make it unique. 

Different podcast formats also bring different experiences for the listeners. Some let you connect more with the host while others focus more on the guest. Some require a heavy amount of research while others might happen more organically during the recording. Each offers something different, so before you decide the format, identify what your overall goal is for the series and what you want it to achieve. This will help to point you in the direction of what format is right for you. 

1. Interview 

Probably the most popular podcast format, the interview is pretty much exactly what it sounds like - an interview. Usually there is one host that’s interviewing one guest but there can also be multiple hosts or multiple guests on the episode. Episode lengths vary but we recommend trying to keep it between 20-35 minutes as just straight interview formats can sometimes get a little dry for the listener depending on the content that’s being discussed. 

One thing to keep in mind for interviews is to try to keep the amount of guests or hosts on the series to a minimum. Sometimes if there are too many voices happening at once the listener can get confused with who they’re hearing from.   

Benefits of the Interview Format:

  • Thought leadership
  • Credibility
  • Sharing tips or advice
  • Lead generation (ask potential partners or clients to join you on the series)

Samples of an Interview Podcast Format: 

  1. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard 
  2. The Tim Ferriss Show
  3. WTF with Marc Maron Podcast

2. Discussion 

The discussion podcast format occurs when there is more of a natural conversation between hosts, a host and a guest, or a host with multiple guests. It takes a step away from the more structured, Q&A style of an interview format and flows as a more organic discussion between all the voices you hear on the series.

Episodes can definitely run a little longer than interview format podcasts. There are plenty of podcasts that take on this style and go above the one hour mark (but usually those tend to have more known voices on them) so we recommend going no more than 40 minutes. 

Benefits of the Discussion Format:

  • Build a stronger connection with the host 
  • Ability to add more personality into the series 
  • Thought leadership 
  • Sharing tips or advice
  • Lead generation (ask potential partners or clients to join you on the series)

Samples of a Discussion Podcast Format: 

  1. The Joe Rogan Experience 
  2. The Michelle Obama Podcast
  3. Smartless

3. Fiction Storytelling 

Fiction storytelling is one of the most engaging and intriguing podcast formats for a listener but also one of the most difficult to produce. 

A fiction storytelling format means that the entire podcast is telling a story. You’ll have characters, a story arc, soundscapes, and so much more that go into producing this style of series. It’s like writing a book -- each episode is it’s own chapter where something new happens that makes the listener want to press play on the next episode in the same way that makes a reader want to turn the page. 

Episodes range in length. Some will be around the 30 minute mark but others will stretch out to an hour. Since it takes a lot more work to produce, aiming for the 30 minute mark may be a reasonable goal. 

Overall, if there’s one word that we can use to sum up the fiction storytelling format, it’s planning

Benefits of the Interview Format:

  • Highly engaged listeners
  • More consistency with listeners (since to hear the entire story they have to start from episode one and run through each episode)
  • Each episode is already pre-planned and laid out

Samples of a Fiction Storytelling Podcast Format: 

  1. The Two Princes 
  2. S-Town
  3. The Horror of Dolores Roach

4. Non-Fiction Narrative 

A nonfiction narrative is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a nonfiction story that is produced into a podcast series. One company that does this incredibly well is Wondery. They have a single narrator that guides the listener through the entire story and series. Soundscapes and specific interviews may be added to provide deeper context or answer questions but the main voice you’ll hear throughout these shows is that of the host (narrator). 

Nonfiction narratives can also range in length but usually sit around the 30-45 minute mark. A large reason for this is that it takes a lot of research, planning, and scripting to create this sort of series since factual accuracy is key.

Benefits of a Nonfiction Narrative: 

  • Highly engaged listeners
  • More consistency with listeners (since to hear the entire story they have to start from episode one and run through each episode)
  • Each episode is already pre-planned and laid out
  • As it provides factual information on a real life story, listeners may come to you as a resource to learn more. 

Samples of a Non-Fiction Narrative Podcast Format: 

  1. The Mysterious Mr. Epstein
  2. Young Charlie and Hollywood Crime
  3. Man in the Window

5. Multi-Story

Multi-story podcasts string together multiple interviews or stories within one episode. Interviews/stories are kept short and concise since the host has to move through multiple sections or people. 

This format helps to keep listeners engaged since there are new voices to be heard and conversations to be had. Rather than one, 30-minute long interview, maybe you’ll listen to three 10-minute long interviews. Although a multi-story format does help to keep the listener tuned in and present, it is still up to you to make sure that the content is still interesting and valuable. 

Multi-story podcasts usually sit around 30-45 minutes since you don’t want to get overly repetitive with how many interviews/stories you have on an episode. 

Benefits of a Multi-Story: 

  • Short and concise conversations with guests
  • Keep listeners highly engaged and interested 
  • Have multiple voices and perspectives that get shared
  • Access to more guest networks for promotion 

Samples of a Multi-Story Podcast Format: 

  1. What the Peeve
  2. Fearless Beauties
  3. The Moth 

6. Solo Conversation

Solo conversation formats feature a host and a microphone. They tend to not be scripted and provide a chance for the host to have candid conversations with their listeners. We see this format used mostly in the comedy category. 

For this format the host is incredibly important since that’s who the listeners will be connecting with. You need to engage with your listeners and make it feel as if you’re truly speaking to them. If you’re a strong host, a solo conversation format may be for you. 

Solo conversation podcasts tend to run a little longer, around the 60 minute mark since they're candid, natural, and authentic. Most of the time as a listener it’ll feel as if you’re just listening to your friend tell you a story or have a very one-sided conversation. 

Benefits of a Solo Conversation: 

  • No need to guest source 
  • Usually results in a highly engaged audience and fanbase 
  • Simpler recording style
  • Simpler editing style 

Samples of a Solo-Conversation Podcast Format: 

  1. You Up with Nikki Glaser 
  2. Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast 
  3. Yoga Girl: Conversations From the Heart 

7. Live or Repurposed 

A live or repurposed format is usually used when the content stems from an in-person or online event that’s happening. The audio gets pulled from that event and edited into a podcast format. 

The length of this format can really vary depending on the event. Whether it’s 10-minutes or 60-minutes, either can be created into a podcast series. 

Benefits of Live/Repurposed Podcasts: 

  • It’s repurposed content -- you get to use it in multiple places! 
  • If you had an audience at your event then you already have a listener base
  • Simpler editing style since you want to keep some of the authenticity of the event 
  • Can easily make into a multi-story format as well 

Samples of a Live/Repurposed Podcast Format: 

  1. The Moth 
  2. Grown Ups Read Things They Wrote as Kids
  3. The Tech Haus: Live at Soho Innovation Lab

8. Investigative 

In an investigative podcast, the host will start the episode with a question or curiosity around a subject. Throughout the episode the host will then investigate that topic to find answers. Usually, guests will be brought on to provide expertise or context around the topic. 

This is an incredibly engaging podcast format and it’s used quite widely among different categories. Listeners are drawn in by the host's original question or curiosity and want to find the answers alongside them. 

The length of investigative podcasts usually sit around the 30-45 minute mark. It’s the right amount of time to truly get into an episode topic without having it trail on for too long. 

Benefits of an Investigative Podcast: 

  • Highly engaged listeners
  • Each episode is already pre-planned and laid out
  • An in-depth discovery on a specific topic or story, listeners may use you as a resource

Samples of an Investigative Podcast Format: 

  1. Reply All 
  2. The Cut 
  3. Sold in America

In Conclusion… 

Like we mentioned, it’s important to first identify what your goals are for your podcast before choosing the type of format. What do you want it to achieve or what voices will you have on it? These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself. And feel free to test! Try out different formats to find the one that fits your style and podcast goals. 

Trying to figure out which format is right for you? Chat with us here!

Alison Osborne

Director of Growth Marketing

A passionate storyteller, Ali is Quill’s Director of Growth Marketing, previously the co-founder and CMO of the branded podcast agency, Origins Media Haus (acquired by Quill). She excels in merging creativity with data in order to successfully build and grow a brand.



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