How to Start a Podcast

#2 Choose your podcast format

October 07, 2018 Season 1
How to Start a Podcast
#2 Choose your podcast format
Chapters
00:01:05
Why podcasts aren't like TV
00:03:00
The 3 main podcast formats
00:15:03
How long should your episodes be?
00:19:18
How often should you publish new episodes?
00:28:13
Download the Podcast Checklist
How to Start a Podcast
#2 Choose your podcast format
Oct 07, 2018 Season 1
Buzzsprout
What type of podcast should you create?
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode we cover:

  1. The top 3 podcast formats 
  2. Deciding how long your episodes should be 
  3. How often you should publish new episodes 


Download the “How to Start a Podcast Checklist”, a FREE, step-by-step guide designed to help you get your podcast off the ground without feeling overwhelmed. 

Start your podcast for FREE with Buzzsprout



Travis:
0:00
It's a lot easier to have a conversation with someone because that's something you do all the time, right in normal life on the phone and talking to your relatives...
Alban:
0:08
You've got more friends than me.
Travis:
0:17
Hello and welcome to episode two of how to start a podcast, the podcast that teaches you how to create a podcast from scratch. I'm your host, Travis Albritton and helping me again with the episode today is the self- proclaimed number one fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars football team, Alban Brooke.
Alban:
0:34
Duval!
Travis:
0:36
Yes. If you don't watch football, that means nothing to you. Just know that we're kind of big fans here at the office.
Alban:
0:42
Yeah, big Jags fans.
Travis:
0:43
So in this episode we're going to help you nail the details that will give some structure to your new podcast. If you haven't listened to episode one, you should definitely go and listen to that first because otherwise this episode is going to make very little sense to you.
Alban:
0:58
Yeah, definitely. Start with one, two. Next week, three. Sequentially.
Travis:
1:02
It's almost like it's predictable and they're laid out in a deliberate order. So Alban, yes. I know a lot of people listening to this are thinking what are the do's and don'ts of kind of crafting the format of my podcast and the temptation may be to follow a TV like format. Oh Gosh. So maybe you can talk a little bit about why that is not necessarily the best approach.
Alban:
1:24
No, do not make a 22. I, I really hope this episode is at 22 and a half minutes because now I'm about to rag, it. Don't make a 22 and a half minute podcast episode. TV is predicated on these are 30 minute or hour long slots and what we're gonna do is we're going to fit in a bunch of ads into it. All these 30 second ads. So we always end up with these 22 and a half minute episodes.
Travis:
1:49
Are you saying that TV shows are really just there to fill in the space between Jeep and Coca Cola commercials?
Alban:
1:57
Yeah, I mean yes. The whole idea is they're basically, it's, they're getting you to show up to watch the ads, but I mean, so the show is built around serving up these ads and your podcast doesn't have to do that. Now your podcast could have ads, but you don't have another show that starts 30 minutes behind you and so you're able to go as long or short as you want to. And so, you know, that's one of the big positives in podcasting and I think people are really quick to turn away from that and they start thinking like, oh, I'm going to hit a 22 and a half minute episode and they're putting all these constraints in there that don't need to be there. So don't constrain yourself if you don't have to.
Travis:
2:38
Yeah. That's one of the great things about podcasting is you really get to craft whatever is going to be meaningful for your audience. And we're going to dive into this in this episode and kind of give you some, some things to aim for, but these aren't rules. These aren't written in stone. These are, these are guidelines, these are things to consider that can help you be more or less successful and so that really the first domino to fall, the first thing you got to decide when you're laying out the structure around your show is choosing what format you're going to do for your podcast and there are a couple main formats that we're going to cover specifically three that you'll hear a lot if you just listen to podcasts in general in each of these have pros and cons and we're going to run through them, but just listen to these formats and in as we're reading through these think, you know, which one of these really is tailor made to help me communicate whatever I decided my podcast is going to be about from episode one.
Alban:
3:35
Yeah.
Travis:
3:37
So the first podcast format, probably the most popular one is the interview podcast. Alban, run us through what an interview podcast is.
Alban:
3:46
Yeah. This is so popular that I'll see people almost think this is what a podcast has to be, right? They'll be like, how do I get the guests for my podcast? I'm like your podcast doesn't even need to have a guest that's a, that's a life hack right there. Life Hack, if I guess, heck yeah, so interview podcasts, they're the most popular and a lot of people are using it and what it is, is there somebody who's a host there, consistent host and they're interviewing just different people. So think of Joe Rogan interviewing lots of standup comedians and authors and people in TV and stuff, or a fresh air with Terry Gross who is just interviewing like the most interesting people in the world and you know, so you get some of these kind of big name people who are interviewing lots of people and then you've got ones that are a little bit more focused, I think of like trained, a Nike podcast and that's a example of a podcast where they're doing interviews of people in a specific genre or a specific niche.
Travis:
4:45
So kinda like you'll listen to a business podcast and all the guests will be business people of some sort.
Alban:
4:50
Yeah. Entrepreneur on Fire, something like that.
Travis:
4:52
Gotcha. And so talk about what are the reasons that you should do an interview podcast? Like what, why would you decide that okay, I'm going to do an interview podcast format.
Alban:
5:03
Yeah. So if your ears perked up in episode one when we started talking about influencer marketing, where you're trying to connect with a lot of people who are influential in your space. Well this is the one you want to do because you can talk to and connect with lots of interesting people. You don't have to prepare as much content yourself because you're going to be leveraging your guests. So you'll have to prepare questions and do a lot of background. But the actual script, you don't have to do any scripting. It's relatively easier to get into. And it's one that I think a new podcaster who's in a specific community could actually start competing with the big names day one. I think a lot of people, there's a lot of opportunity in the interview shows.
Travis:
5:46
Yeah. The one thing that really sticks out to me, thinking about starting a new podcast from scratch, if you're just trying to figure out what should I do, it's a lot easier to have a conversation with someone because that's something you do all the time, right? In normal life on the phone, talking to your relatives.
Alban:
6:02
You've got more friends than me.
Travis:
6:05
It's easier to carry on a conversation with someone else than to try and speak, you know, on your own for an extended period of time and make it as interesting. And so, so if you are new to podcasting, if you're new to recording yourself, , the interview podcast format is gonna be really helpful because you can just record a conversation, you have someone else and that becomes your content. Right? And so there's not as much pressure to do a ton of planning and writing scripts and all kinds of other stuff.
Alban:
6:34
And there's a big benefit on the growth side because if you're interviewing all these people who already have an existing audience, a percentage of their audience is going to listen to your podcast. I met a guy in Florida, his whole thing was he was interviewing bands and the only outreach he ever did was when the episode went live, he sets an email to the band and said, hey guys, interviews up. I'd love it if you'd promote it. And that was it. That was only promo he ever did. And he was having these huge bands tweet out links to his podcast. Like, Hey, we just were on this podcast. It was awesome. That's a great way to expand the show's reach.
Travis:
7:12
Yeah, that's the next level tip. So Alban, let's talk about the second format that you might consider for your podcast. And that's the solo commentary. Walk us through what that looks like.
Alban:
7:23
It's really just a single person who's walking through a particular topic and they're going to do it by themself. And so it's got to be a bit more structured, a probably want to have quite a bit more notes ready. You may even script different pieces of it. And it's mostly going to focus on a particular area. So I think a lot of these end up being like a news shows where people are like, hey, here's what's happening in the world of like acrobatics or something, whatever you're into. And so that they could speak with authority for, you know, 20, 45 minute show.
Travis:
7:56
Yeah. It takes a special kind of person to keep a listener engaged in a one way conversation for an extended period of time. Right? It's definitely not going to be everyone's bread and butter, but there are a couple of instances where you absolutely should do a solo commentary format for your podcast.
Alban:
8:11
What are some. Yeah, what are some examples of that? What would you say?
Travis:
8:14
So if you know a lot about the subject, like if you are already an expert, then you want to demonstrate that expertise by offering your knowledge, right? So if you consider that you are creating a podcast around a hobby that you spend a lot of time in and you know more than most people and your end goal is that I want to become known as an expert in whatever my niche is than the solo commentary format is going to give you a lot of opportunities to demonstrate that expertise. And so that's gonna get you closer to your end goal.
Alban:
8:45
Makes me think of like Smart Passive Income. Quite a bit of Pat Flynn just kind of sharing his expertise in different things he's doing and I think he's got interviews on there as well, but a lot of them are just him like here's something I've been working on with my affiliate marketing.
Travis:
9:00
Yeah. So another sneaky reason why you might consider doing a solo commentary format is if you lack easy access to guests.
Alban:
9:08
So like terrible internet or something.
Travis:
9:10
Yeah. If you just have no good Internet options where you are, so you're not going to be able to do any online interviews and you're also geographically disadvantaged from being able to travel to talk to people, then it might be better to do a solo commentary just to have a high quality podcast that you can do on a consistent basis
Alban:
9:27
And it can be a little intimidating to try to have a conversation with someone who really is an expert in the field. You know, maybe you're not someone who wants to do interviews.
Travis:
9:36
So that's the second format. The third format we want to talk about is the storytelling format. So Alban, break this one down a little bit because this is not necessarily one that people think of when they think about starting a podcast.
Alban:
9:49
Yeah, so I think I see this storytelling is being two different pieces, fiction and nonfiction and the nonfiction world. We've got things like a Serial or Slow Burn is like a new one that's come out that has been really good. Or something maybe like Hardcore History. You've got somebody or a group of people sitting down and telling a story of something that happened. And so they might tell it over a whole, a whole season of a show and you learn about it. So think of like an audio documentary. Is that a good way of putting it?
Travis:
10:20
Yes, absolutely.
Alban:
10:21
And then our second version is going to be fiction. So this is just like a TV show that's fiction, but it's going to be in audio and this is one I think has a ton of opportunity and there's not a ton of people doing it, so I'm thinking of there's one called Bubble by Maximum Fun I've been listening to lately. It was just hilarious and there's a few of them out there that are done that are done really well, but I think there's a lot of space for this area to grow.
Travis:
10:50
Podcasting's coming out party was the release of Serial. I remember when that podcast hit and it just blew up. All of a sudden podcasts became like a household name where before you could, you could talk to 100 people and maybe two were listening to podcasts, but after that people started getting into podcasting little bit more. And Serial is a storytelling podcast. They're telling a story of a series of events over time. And so the reason that we're talking about this is because it is one way to format your show, but it's absolutely the most difficult to pull off and do well.
Alban:
11:23
Oh yeah, for sure.
Travis:
11:24
And that's because most successful storytelling podcasts have teams of people working on them. So if you listen to the credits at the end of a Serial podcast, they have like a dozen people that are named as doing different parts of the show.
Alban:
11:41
And a lot of these podcasts are like syndication of a radio show. And so there's quite, you're, like you said, there's a huge team, they've got audio engineers, they've got production assistants and they've got all this like infrastructure built up and they're all doing a great job. So they write this amazing story. They do amazing recordings. They do awesome editing. And then they put it out there, that's a pretty tough thing to break into.
Travis:
12:07
So just to give you a sense of, you know, what we're talking about, why it's difficult. So when I was young and naive, relatively speaking relative to now, and I decided to do my first podcast, I decided I'm going to do a storytelling podcast. And just to pull off one 25ish minute episode probably took me about 12 to 15 hours of total work.
Alban:
12:29
It's definitely way more intense than just kind of sitting down for a conversation.
Travis:
12:35
So it is a lot of work, but there are definitely a couple of reasons why you should choose this format. And so I want to break down some of the reasons why you would decide to do a storytelling podcast. One of them is if you already have the stories, if you already have a catalog of stories that you'd like to tell. So if you're a novelist, if you write books, if you are a short story author, if you have a blog where you share people's stories, then a storytelling podcast could be a natural extension of what you're already doing. And then another reason you should is if the goal of your podcast is to be more of like a, like a making of or a behind the scenes podcast or you're trying to incorporate audio clips of real life events.
Alban:
13:27
It makes me think of like Startup, which was like a whole background to starting their own kind of podcasting company. Right?
Travis:
13:33
Right. So in Startup the podcast, they mix real life audio recordings of conversations and things that are going on with narrated material and they're piecing all of these events together in one cohesive timeline, but they're incorporating all these actual live recordings. And so if you have a bunch of those or if you're trying to communicate a behind the scenes kind of podcast then the storytelling podcasts going to be the best format for you. So those are the three main podcast formats that you should consider when you're trying to figure out what kind of podcast you're going to do a. and so if you're listening and you're hearing us describe one of them and you say, all right, that's exactly which one I want to do, then then go with that one. But if you're not really convinced or still not sure which one's going to really fit what you're trying to accomplish, we would encourage you to do an interview podcast.
Alban:
14:26
Yeah, I agree.
Travis:
14:27
And the main reason is just that it's the easiest one to do well and that's going to give you easy wins. That's going to help you get out the gate faster. It's going to give you confidence because you're gonna be really proud of what the end product looks like and sounds like. And that's gonna inspire you to continue to keep going. But if you try and bite off more than you can chew at the beginning, you might get discouraged unnecessarily and stopped before you even get started.
Alban:
14:50
Yeah, I think that's great advice because it's one where you can compete day one, especially if there's not podcasts in your community already. If you're in it and you know about it, start grabbing interviews with some of the top people. And it could do really well.
Travis:
15:04
So shifting gears a little bit, let's talk about duration. I know we kind of ranted about TV at the beginning of the episode, but, it is a question. It is a legitimate question that you should think about, which is how long should your podcast be?
Alban:
15:17
Yeah. I don't think you should let anybody tell you there's an optimum length. And so I see these numbers keep getting batted around and they change every few years. I think for a little while people were like, it's the 42 minute episode. Now it's like the 21 minute episode. It's like people take the average of all the popular ones. I think that's the wrong way to think about it. Take a look through the top podcasts and you're going to see a couple. You're going to see The Daily by The New York Times is like 20, 30 minute episodes. You'll see Accidental Tech Podcasts are mostly about two to three hour interviews and I've already talked about it before, but Hardcore History. I mean, Dan Carlin does these like five, six hour episodes and he'll do multiple of them for the same topic. Those are all wildly successful and those are totally different time lengths, but I think your podcast should be as long as it needs to be without being any longer. Right? So when you're editing it, um, you may have kind of a goal for about how long you're looking for, but be comfortable with cutting out rambling segments, boring questions, stuff that just doesn't add much value to the listeners. And if something is like really good, if you've got someone on for an hour long interview and you're talking, it's just flowing really well and there's tons of new stuff coming up. Let it run another 20 minutes and feel free to, let the content dictate how long the podcast episode should last.
Travis:
16:44
Yeah, there's nothing magical about hitting 20 minutes or hitting an hour. Like you don't get an award for having all of your episodes be less than 30 minutes. And as a listener, I don't judge the podcasts I listen to based on, Oh man, this one was eight minutes longer than the other one that they had. That's not why I'm listening. I'm listening because I value the content, I value the episode and I want to spend time listening to that episode, make it as long as it needs to be and then stop. So all of those things are true, but we also want to kind of give you some ballpark figures so you know, based on which format, what is standard, what is most common, and that'll give you at least a starting point. So like an average time for an interview podcast is typically around an hour. That gives you time for about 10 questions, which is a good number of questions. You're able to flesh out an idea pretty well with a guest. And I know from my interview episodes on my podcasts, that's about how long they go. They go anywhere between 50 minutes and an hour and 10 minutes. And it doesn't feel super long even though an hour tv show seems really long for sure. But when you're in the conversation in our isn't actually that long.
Alban:
17:57
Or if you're listening to it as you're driving to work or you're working out you'll listen to stuff that's a bit longer. I know there's interview podcast that go to three hours and stuff.
Travis:
18:06
Yeah. If you're going to do a solo commentary podcast, we would suggest a target of about 25 minutes. Okay. So this is almost like the Ted Talk framework for a talk where they. They did some study so there was some science involved and they said anywhere between 18 and 20 minutes is ideal for that specific kind of talk. And couple that with the fact that the average commute in the U.S is 22 minutes, 25 ish minutes is a good. It's a good goal if you're just going to be talking to the microphone and feel like you can say one thing really well without being too winded and you know, filling up the space with nothing valuable but also allowing yourself time to really explain something.
Alban:
18:49
Yeah, that makes sense. And then the last one with the storytelling, what do you, what are you seeing there?
Travis:
18:54
So storytelling podcasts are kind of all over the map because again, it depends on the kind of storytelling you're talking about, but, again, it's very similar to the solo commentary. The 25 ish minutes seems to be a good sweet spot for the length of an episode, but these are all guidelines. You can break every single one of these rules and be totally fine. We just want to give you kind of like a starting point if you're brand new.
Alban:
19:16
Yeah, I think that's kind of a good rubric.
Travis:
19:19
So we've talked about the format, we've talked about the duration. So now let's get into publishing frequency. How often should you come out with new episodes?
Alban:
19:31
Okay, so this is another one that we get quite a bit and I see a ton online and it's almost always the answer is less than you were actually thinking right now. So people will show up. It'll be like, I have to do a daily show, right? Like you, you really don't have to do a daily show. Maybe once a week and they're like, oh my gosh, yeah. There's some people that are like, I've got to talk about shipping logistics every week. I'm like, well, if there's not shipping logistics info every week, maybe once a month is good for you. So, I mean, again, I think maybe there's no hard and fast rule. What's your take on it?
Travis:
20:05
I would agree. And the thing to keep in mind is whatever you establish as the expectation, that's what the listener is going to expect, right? So if you come out at the beginning and say this is going to be an everyday podcast and then you don't post every day, that's not good. But if you say from the beginning, Hey, we're putting out a new episode every other week, and then you put out an episode every other week, then that is good because that's what the listener is signing up for it. Right? So there isn't anything magical about doing every single day you will get more download numbers, but we're not big on looking at download numbers as the key metric for your success. I mean that's, that's like again going back to episode, measuring how many friends you have is the wrong way to think about friendship. Yeah, the wrong way to think about friendship, but we do want to give you a couple ideas of standard publishing frequencies that we see with our Buzzsprout podcasts and then also with a popular podcasts.
Alban:
21:05
So starting off with like interviews once a week seems about the right one. All the interview shows I listen to it a lot that we help with are weekly interviews and that seems to be a kind of a good pattern for those kinds of shows.
Travis:
21:21
Yeah, I would agree with that. Doing interviews once a week, publishing them once a week is a good routine to get into. And then what about for Solo commentaries?
Alban:
21:32
This can go a couple different ways. There are people that are doing daily shows on solo stuff, but again, I think a lot of these are news shows and like if it's changing constantly, you probably want to put out a couple of shows a week, but if it's not, you might be overwhelming yourself by setting that expectation.
Travis:
21:54
Yeah, it really depends on how you structure your podcast. So I've done, I've run the gamut on this, you know, I've, I've done three podcasts, I've published them with three completely different frequencies. I have a solo show and I was doing it every single day.
Alban:
22:09
I'm the first cohost, right?
Travis:
22:11
Yes. You are the first cohost. I've never cohosted with anyone, so you should feel very special. So I decided I was going to do a daily podcast and so I made sure that I could actually do it. Like I, I designed the podcast to be sustainable on a daily basis. So those episodes were only five to 10 minutes long and it's just me talking into a microphone. I couldn't do that. If it was a storytelling podcast, it would not be possible.
Alban:
22:37
Yeah, definitely not.
Travis:
22:38
And so, and then with solo commentary, depending on what you're doing, it might make sense to do daily if it's more of like a tidbits and tips kind of thing. But if you're going to really dive into a subject and really explore the details about something or about an idea, then you're probably gonna be better served doing a weekly or every other week publishing schedule.
Alban:
22:57
Now for people listening to Travis talk about launching three different shows, weekly shows that stuff. I feel like I've got to kinda out you a little bit. You're also an engineer and you're also an iron man, right?
Travis:
23:09
I've done two half iron mans. So the Ironman community will agree that that is not technically an ironman. But if you're not a triathlete...
Alban:
23:18
You're a bronze man or something. Travis has a lot of self discipline that not all of us have myself included.
Travis:
23:27
I appreciate that.
Alban:
23:28
So I would say that bit. That's probably why you're able to jump into the daily show. I don't think I could get myself to do a daily show consistently with good quality content.
Travis:
23:39
Yeah, I would not. It was not my first podcast.
Alban:
23:41
Okay.
Travis:
23:42
And I would also not suggest doing, unless you're very ambitious about what you want your end goal to be. So I think those would be the things that you consider if you're going to do a daily show, is that you want this to grow your business or you're trying to strategically get lots of downloads in a short period of time to get found quicker. But it's, it's, it's for a strategic reason. It's not haphazardly chosen. You're not just, Oh, I just feel like doing an every single day podcast because it's a lot of work to keep up with it. And again, you don't want to set yourself up for failure when you don't have to. You get to make the rules. There's nothing that says you have to do a daily podcast or that it's more successful than a weekly podcast because neither of those statements are true.
Alban:
24:24
Yeah. And they always say when you get into running, run much slower than you would expect to, you know, run as slow as you can, as long as you can. I think podcasting is probably the same rule applies. Publish a little bit less frequently. Make sure you're getting into a good rhythm in the beginning, but make it something that's sustainable for quite a while and you're gonna learn so much, so quickly that you're going to be able to come up to go, Oh, I can nail this show now. I know I want to do two or three a week or more.
Travis:
24:54
Yep. And then just to wrap it up for a storytelling format, how often should you publish?
Alban:
25:00
And this one's a little bit tougher because we're seeing people play with this differently. So Serial was once a week, when they did theirs and you've got some that may drop like two episodes a week, but then S Town, I remember when they did that, it was like all eight episodes drop the same day. It was like a Netflix binge model. I know that that's kind of like a little bit of a hack. The reasons sometimes they'll do that is one people get super into it and talk about it, they don't have to wait around, but then it also kind of juices the download numbers for Apple Podcasts so that they can quickly like shoot up the ranks and ended up in the like new and noteworthy section.
Travis:
25:42
It really depends. So with storytelling, you have a lot more of the creative control over the publishing schedule. So like let's say that you want to tell a story in eight episodes and you already know the beginning of the end, you can produce that entire podcast before you even launch episode one. And so then you have complete control. Do you want to do once a week, every other week, twice a week, every day, all at once? You know, you have the latitude to be able to do that. And so it depends on the kind of storytelling that you're doing. So if you're documenting a process over time and it's in the present where you don't have the ability to finish the story, then you definitely want to do a weekly or a biweekly format. But if you already have the entire story done and you have the ability to do all the episodes at once, then I would suggest doing that just for a tactical reason, because you're going to get the same. So for instance, if you have a 10 episode season then every single person that listens to your podcasts, I listened to it all the way through is going to count the same as 10 normal listeners you know, so. So these are all good benchmarks. These are all good things to think about. But again, you never want to trade quality for frequency. If you can make an excellent podcast once a week, that's much better than a mediocre podcast every single day. You just want to be true to yourself, understand what you're capable of doing, and then publish as often as you can publish quality content. So just to recap what we covered in this episode, we started out talking about which format you should choose for your podcast, whether that's an interview style, which is what we recommend for new podcasters, a solo commentary where it's just you talking to the microphone or doing a storytelling podcast which is a little more ambitious, but you might get some better results because it's not as popular, choosing which format you want to go forward with. Having an idea of how long your podcasts are going to be or a duration goal or target. Not a hard fast rule. They can be as long as they need to be, but just having an idea and an expectation about how long you expect your podcast episodes to be and then also deciding the publishing frequency. How often are you putting out new episodes for your listeners and if you're doing an interview podcast and you're just starting out, we would suggest doing a weekly post frequency that's going to be enough to keep people interested, to keep people listening on a consistent basis, but it's not going to be so much that you feel overwhelmed and feel like quitting before you give your podcast to chance to really build some positive momentum.
Alban:
28:14
Now if you're ready to take the next step, go to the show notes and you can download the "How to Start a Podcast" Checklist, and this is the guide we put together. It's gonna help you to start a podcast without forgetting anything, and there's no guesswork. You just gotta follow the checklist and you'll be able to launch your own podcast.
Travis:
28:34
In the next episode, episode three, we're going to be talking to about gear and software specifically, which microphone you should buy and what software you use for your podcast.
Why podcasts aren't like TV
The 3 main podcast formats
How long should your episodes be?
How often should you publish new episodes?
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