written by
David Hooper

9 Podcast Formats (From A Single Topic)

Podcast Marketing 8 min read

SiriusXM recently launched a new station on its network that is 100% talk and focused on music. Since 2005, I've hosted a talk radio show on the music industry called Music Business Radio, so I perked up.

Over the years, we've been approached about different options for "music talk" radio and recently, with the growing popularity of podcasts, that interest has increased. I'm currently talking to three different record labels about setting up their own versions of a "music talk" network.

The "Same Show" Done 9 Different Ways

What SiriusXM has done with its new station is something that's easy to replicate for any podcast, radio show, or topic. You can take the "formats" listed below and use them to create completely different podcasts, which would be perfect as standalone shows or could be grouped together, like SiriusXM has done, to create a specialized station or network.

Like the podcast you already have? You can also use these ideas to create segments within your existing show.

1. NEWS AND TRENDS

Shows with this format can be as easy or as complicated as you want. Podnews is a great example of a straight news show with limited commentary. Today, Explained adds interviews and commentary to top news stories, which adds a unique twist if you want to go deeper.

This format works for any topic and can be highly focused. For example, a geographic focus, such as a neighborhood calendar, or a podcast focusing on news from a single segment of much larger industry, such as "music tour news."

PROS: This is a flexible format that allows you to provide value to listeners with or without having an opinion on something. Easy to repurpose content to/from a newsletter.

CONS: Research, needs to be timely.

2. DEBATE

Successful podcasters fly a flag that lets others know where they stand. A "debate" format show (or segment) is the perfect way to do this.

This format works for any topic, from politics, to something like the "KISS vs. Motley Crue" mention above. You can keep it light or approach each episode in a way that leaves people crying (or at least gets their blood pressure up).

PROS: A great format for audience participation. A flexible format that can be as light or deep as you want.

CONS (maybe): Not everybody is going to agree with you and many will let you know it, so consider this if you're sensitive to criticism.

3. DEEP-DIVE INTERVIEWS

Eddie Trunk is a great example of the type of host required for a deep-dive interview show. He's not a host asking general questions given to him by publicists; he's a guy who's been entrenched in the industry (in his case, music business) for years and knows how it works from various angles.

In short, Eddie knows what he's talking about.

This is podcasting, not radio. People are searching you out, so nobody wants general "boxers or briefs" questions that mean nothing. Give people depth!

PROS: Hard to do right and hard to replicate.

CONS: Hard to do right and hard to replicate.

4. PEER INTERVIEWS

Terry Gross interviewing Howard Stern. is the perfect example of a peer interview. As an established radio host herself, she's with him and trying to understand him better, not putting him up on a pedestal, like so many hosts do with their guests.

PROS: Deep, unique content.

CONS: Limited number of people to interview, depending on your status and business.

5. A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE

Steve Jordan is a drummer, songwriter, and record producer. He played in the house bands for both Saturday Night Live and Late Night With David Letterman. He's known for his work as a studio musician, recording with acts like Stevie Nicks, Eric Clapton, and Bruno Mars.

That's perspective. And everybody has something similar. Everybody.

We don't need another nameless, faceless radio host, we need you. And by leaning into your past experiences, you can do this in a unique way.

PROS: Nobody can copy you.

CONS: Most people aren't ready to be this vulnerable or exposed.

6. INFLUENCES

If you have some level of success and people care about the work you're doing, an "influences" show where you talk about the books, mentors, and other things that have helped you to do your work may be an option for you.

How do you know if you're ready for this format? Think about this:

People would care if Taylor Swift did an album covering songs she was influenced by. People wouldn't care about a cover band that did an album of covers.

In short, your work needs to stand on its own before anybody cares about what influenced you.

PROS: A great way to tell your story and get people more connected to you by telling the stories of others.

CONS: Most people aren't ready for this type of show, because most people aren't at the level needed to make it work.

7. FOCUSED AUDIENCE SEGMENT

If you want to go deep with audience attraction and connection, stop focusing on the entire audience and look instead at a specific segment of it. This could be based on geography, gender, sexuality, religion, lifestyle, diet, or just about anything that makes part of your overall group of listeners different from others.

As an example, my music talk show, Music Business Radio, feature guests who work in all different types of music – our focus is business, not genre. But we could segment the show further by talking only about country music (genre), only talking about a certain aspect of the business (such as publishing), or focusing on topics only of interest to songwriters (a specific career within the industry).

You can segment your audience any way you want. When you do, you'll give them something "custom" and build a deeper connection.

PROS: Easy to attract audience. High advertising rates due to specific target audience.

CONS: Limited audience. FOMO.

8. DECONSTRUCT A PROCESS

Songwriter and producer Jimmy Jam (with partner Terry Lewis) has produced dozens of hit records, including "When I Think Of You" by Janet Jackson, "Monkey" by George Michael, and "U Remind Me" by Usher. He's had 41 top ten hits in the US and 31 in England.

Jimmy Jam knows the process of writing and recording music. So who better than to talk about this with other artists?

If you've "been there, done that" and have the ability to explain it, this is a great format. People love to hear the behind-the-scenes stories of how something was made and learn how successful people do their work.

PROS: A great format to take advantage of the power of storytelling. Leverages existing audience and reputation of well-known work.

CONS: You need the ability to break down complicated things (and sometimes non-linear or "artsy" thoughts) in a way listeners will be able to understand.

9. TIGHT FOCUS / SINGLE-THEME

When it comes to attracting a podcast audience, it's almost always better to be more specific than broad. Having a single-theme, tight focus is one way to do this.

In his show, Chorus And Verse, John Rzeznik focuses on the evolution and meaning of single songs, not albums, and not artists. This allows him to go deep, hearing aspects of a story that would likely be skipped in a more general setting.

You can't cover everything. And if you try to cover too much within a single interview session or podcast episode, some topics won't be given the justice they deserve.

Lots of people skip over important topics/discussions when interviewing guests. By having a tightly-focused show, you'll be able to attract true fans who want more than a general interview and give them something they've never heard before.

PROS: Easy to leverage audience of highly-dedicated and existing fans.

CONS: Interest may be limited to only hardcore fans. FOMO.

Celebrity Status

It's worth nothing that all the the SiriusXM shows mentioned here have a celebrity host, celebrity guests, or both. That means something.

With the exception of reality television starts who are having their 15 minutes of fame by being exploited, the majority of celebrities achieved that status through hard work that's considered significant by the public. This work often has existing interest, which makes it easy to attract an audience. Beyond this, celebrities themselves are often considered interesting and are likely to have an existing audience based on who they are as much as what they do.

You may not have general celebrity like many of the people mentioned here, but if you do good work, it's fairly easy to become a celebrity within your market. And this will give you options that non-celebrities don't have.

PROS: Celebrity is helpful is establishing and maintaining your podcast.

CONS: For most people, this works only on niche podcasts. I don't know you, but you probably don't have the level of celebrity needed to go really big in a general marketing using this concept.

Small Podcast = Big Podcast

I wrote a book called Big Podcast and my company is called Big Podcast, so I'm often asked, "How do you create a big podcast?"

The answer is to think small, not in the number of people you can reach, but how you reach people. Keeping a tightly-focused audience or narrow niche within a market allows people to easily find you – instead of you having to go to them, they come to you. This is the type of "podcast marketing" that sets you up to win from the beginning.

You don't need everybody to like you. A "small audience" is a lot bigger than people think. Also consider, once this "small audience" finds you, because you have specialized content made just for them, they're going to stick around and tell their like-minded friends, growing your podcast audience even more.

25 Podcast Episode Templates

If you're looking for more ideas on how to attract people to your podcast, here are 25 podcast episode templates you can use to easily create episodes for your podcast.

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