Previously, we released a full guide on radio station formats. We told you what they were, how they came to be, and the most popular kinds on the market. Now, we're continuing our audio format guide with a lesson on podcast formats and genres.
Why should you know about podcast formats and genres? Because they can help you learn what kind of demographic your show caters to, as well as aid you in crafting a podcast that is totally unique. You can either adhere to the popular formats and genres we list below, or you can mix-and-match to create something totally your own. These days, new kinds of podcasts are being uploaded every second.
Without further ado, let's talk about all the formats and genres to choose from within the podcast world. But first...
What's a Podcast Format?
Simply put, a podcast format is a template for the way in which a podcast is constructed. Podcasts were derived from standard radio talk shows, and just like with talk shows, formats explain how the hosts within a podcast speak.
A format defines the podcast as a whole, and from the format comes various genres, or "themes." We'll talk more about genres later. But for now, here are some of the most common podcast formats you'll encounter across the internet...
The Gabfest or ‘Chumcast’
This is a type of show where one or more people chat about something they feel passionately about. It could be sports, TV, politics, advice, or really anything at all. It could even be a mix of topics. So long as the hosts have chemistry or can keep a conversation going, that's all a gabfest/chumcast needs to be entertaining.
These podcast formats rely on more improv and "natural" moments as opposed to scripted or theatrical bits. These kinds of podcasts are also very easy for anyone to make: so long as the person has a microphone, some editing software, and maybe a friend or two, they can create a gabfest/chumcast.
In these podcasts, the host relies on an interesting person or two to bring into their studio. They ask the guests questions - often relating to something unusual that's happened in their lives or a themed topic. Usually with interview podcasts, the special guest for each episode is different. However, that doesn't mean a guest can't return for later episodes.
- Hollywood Greenhorn
- What's Your Favorite Pokemon? (and then I say something nice about you)
- Death Sex & Money
- How I Built This
- Double Date
These podcasts take a deep dive into a specific topic each episode. You can think of them as audio essays. They can either be very naturalistic in sound or incorporate theatrical music, sound effects, and vocal tones.
Topics can be told over several episodes, or each episode can tell a self-contained story. Either way, a storytelling podcast needs a strong plot, interesting characters, good and accurate research, and a tight structure with a narrative arc.
All scripted, no real-life bits. Audio dramas are modern-day proteges of the classic radio plays that were popular in the 1930s and 40s. They involve a cast of actors who play fictional characters in scripted stories. These are probably the hardest podcasts to pull off considering how much work goes into making them. But when done right, they can be very rewarding.
What's a Podcast Genre?
Where a podcast format defines the show's structure, the genre or "theme" refers to the tone of the show and the topics discussed within it. There are several more genres than structures out there, and new ones are being created all the time.
Genres also help group a collection of works into certain categories. You've probably heard about true crime fanatics or people who listen to news podcasts every day on their commute to work. Those two categories are popular podcast genres.
Remember: a podcast doesn't have to be strictly one genre. It can be a mix of genres or adhere to a single genre in one episode and then switch to another genre the next. The possibilities are endless!
Listed below are some of the most popular podcast genres you will encounter:
- News & Politics
- Investigative Journalism
- Personal Journal
- Society & Culture
- Personal Finance
- Health & Fitness
- Pop Culture
- Film & TV
- Advice & Self-Help
- Game Show
We hope this guide has helped you learn more about the different formats and genres out there. Maybe it's helped you find some inspiration for your own audio show. Until next time...happy podcasting!
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Article Image: Man in camoflauge talks into a microphone for his podcast. (Soundtrap via Unsplash.)