Here's Every Type of Podcast Format in 2017


Welcome to The Yard, a blog by Backyard Media that explains the podcast industry and podcast advertising.

For sponsors new to the podcasting space, the amount of information about the industry can be overwhelming. Marketing departments want to know about the types of content their ads will appear alongside - how the content is structured, and what it sounds like. At Backyard Media we've been immersed in the field for a long time. We're also podcast fanatics, so we have a good sense of what types of podcasts are out there and which will work best for a particular sponsor. Here are the most popular types of podcast formats, and what potential podcast sponsors need to know about each of them:


The Interview Podcast

The interview podcast is, as its name implies, a show organized around a regular interview with a guest. This format uaully has one regular host and a theme of regular topics - habits and productivity, industry-specific discussions, politics.

Guests are usually experts in their field - popular guests include authors discussing their new book or researchers explaining insights from their recent findings. Interview podcasts can have more than one guest, but the format works best when the host only interviews one guest at a time. 


Below is an episode of Global Dispatches, a Backyard Media podcast partner and a perfect example of the interview podcast format. In each episode, host Mark Goldberg talks to experts in the foreign policy, diplomacy, and national security spaces. 

What podcast advertisers need to know about the interview podcast: Listeners of interview podcasts tune in because they a) are interested in the topic at hand, b) want to hear from that particular guest, c) appreciate the host's insights and interview style, or d) all of the above. As such, listeners will be intensely focused on the content of the episode and advertisers will see this focus transfer to their podcast ads. On an interview show, most podcast ads will fall either before the interview begins or during short breaks between interview topics (see our explanations of podcast ad placement). These breaks also serve as a break from the intensity and complexity of the conversation, while being short enough as to not lose the listeners' attention.

Examples of Backyard Media partners that are interview podcasts: Global Dispatches, The CNAS Podcast Series.


The Multi-Host Talk Show Podcast

The multi-host talk show podcast features multiple speakers who regularly appear on each episode. It is organized around the discussion of two or sometimes three co-hosts, and it provides for a more conversational tone than an interview podcast. Having multiple co-equal hosts who know each other well also allows for more back-and-forth between speakers. This format dominates the broader category of "talk show" podcasts on the Internet; some of the most well-known podcasts are those where the co-hosts have strong personalities and a well-established rapport. Listeners tune in because they feel they've built a relationship with these personalities and want to hear them each week.

A rarer sibling of the multi-host talk show is the solo host podcast. These are less common because they require a charismatic host who can provide enough content on their own to fill the episode.

First Mondays is Backyard Media podcast partner and multi-host talk show that focuses on analysis of current Supreme Court cases. Each episode, hosts Ian Samuel and Dan Epps discuss developments in the term's cases, noteworthy moments during oral arguments, and procedural decisions of the Court. Take a listen to one of their most recent episodes:

Fist Mondays itunes logo.jpg

What podcast advertisers need to know about the multi-host talk show podcast: We've spoken again and again about how listeners feel they have a relationship with a podcast host. Given this format's conversational tone, listeners feel they're privy to an expert discussion between friends. For advertisers, this goodwill translates into better brand lift and brand sentiment. Ads fit in well at every placement slot in this type of podcast: before the show begins, in between segments, or at the end of the podcast.

Examples of Backyard Media partners that are multi-host talk show podcasts: First Mondays, Someone's Wrong on the Internet (SWOTI), Wired to be Weird, Imaginary Capital Partners.


The Panel Discussion Podcast

A panel discussion podcast features multiple speakers, like the multi-host talk show, but it only has one main host. The host serves as a guide for the panel members (and the podcast's audience) through a number of topics. The host also serves as the listeners' surrogate in the room, providing background information when needed and having panel members clarify complex terms or ideas. Panel discussions can have a high information density and provide listeners with many different points of view in a short period of time.

A great example of a panel discussion podcast is Rational Security, one of Backyard Media's partners focusing on national security politics. Here's one of their latest episodes, in which you can hear host Shane Harris and panel members Tamara Cofman Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Benjamin Wittes:

What podcast advertisers need to know about the panel discussion podcast: Because this format features multiple viewpoints and can be very information-dense, listeners must maintain a high level of focus throughout the episode. Hosts will take breaks during transitions between topics, which provide opportunities for ads to be a lighter "break" from the dense content. Listeners don't lose focus, however, as most mid-roll ads are under 90 seconds in length.

Examples of Backyard Media partners that are multi-host talk show podcasts: Rational Security, Everyday Ethics, Bombshell, War on the Rocks.


The Narrative Storytelling Podcast

When podcast listeners think of the quintessential podcast, this type is often the first that comes to mind. Narrative storytelling podcasts usually feature one host; this host serves as the listeners' guide through an audio story comprised of interviews and sound. Narrative storytelling podcasts can cover any number of topics, but they all generally aim to inform the audience about a topic while also evoking a particular emotional response. WBEZ's Serial and This American Life, some of the most well-known podcasts, are examples of highly-produced audio stories that fall into this cateogry of narrative storytelling.

Hi-Phi Nation, produced by Vassar College professor Barry Lam, is a Backyard Media podcast partner that weaves together philosophy with narrative storytelling, investigative journalism, and sound design. Take a listen to one of its most recent episodes from Season 2:

Note the majority of narrative storytelling podcasts are nonfiction - they either are reporting a story or exploring an idea through sound. Fictional narrative storytelling podcasts, while less common, do exist. We've mentioned some before when discussing the benefits of branded podcasts (a very specific form of podcast sponsorship that works well with fictional podcasts).

What podcast advertisers need to know about the narrative storytelling podcast: a good story holds a listener's focus better than any other kind of audio. Because this format relies on stories, listeners are unlikely to break their attention for anything. Pre-rolls work well so that listeners associate brands with their feelings toward the story they're about to hear. For podcasts that come in discrete "acts", like This American Life, podcast mid-roll ads work well as breaks from the story.

Examples of Backyard Media partners that are narrative storytelling podcasts: Hi-Phi Nation; Illusion; Bush League; Sex, Drugs, and Healthcare; The Secret Room; While Commuting


The Hybrid Podcast

Podcasts are creative endeavors, and many don't fit easily into a defined format. For instance, First Mondays, the podcast about the Supreme Court, often features interviews with reporters like Nina Totenberg and other legal scholars, and so we can classify it as half interview podcast for those particular episodes. Data Skeptic, a podcast about machine learning and artificial intelligence, is primarily a multi-host talk show but it will also include interviews and live event recordings.

That also brings us to another important point - podcasts can feature repackaged audio from other outlets. Recordings from live events or public talks are popular additions to a podcast feed, either as a standalone episode or within a podcast episode.


And that's all of the different types of podcast formats - almost every podcast out there will fall into at least one of these categories. If you're a prospective podcast sponsor and want to learn more about the formats of our podcast partners, or if you want to start advertising with one of Backyard Media's podcast partners, you can get in touch with us.

Backyard Media is a marketplace for podcast advertising. We connect content creators of all shapes and sizes with awesome sponsors, providing them with the resources they need to do what they do best. Everyone wins.