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Pros and Cons of Different Podcast Programming Formats

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

If you’ve tuned in to my podcast (The Heidi Thorne Show) recently, you’ll notice that it’s a solo show, meaning that I’m doing all the talking. I prefer it that way, at least for right now. But I would say that a large majority of the podcasts that I listen to are of the podcast host with guests variety. So should you go solo or no?

It’s best to choose a programming format prior to launch. No only does this help make the podcast production more efficient over time, it helps establish listener expectations.

Solo Podcast Pros:

There are some advantages to going solo with a podcast:

Scheduling and Recording Flexibility

You can record an episode anytime that’s convenient for you.

It Builds a Relationship Between the Podcast Host and Fan Audience

Fans who listen to the podcast really get to know the podcast host. It's a much richer experience for fans than simply reading a blog post.

Solo Podcast Cons:

There are some downsides though:

It’s All On You

Being the show’s producer and host puts all the responsibility for content development, recording, technical production and marketing on you (or people you hire for the task). So it could be a greater investment of your time and energy.

Talking to Nobody

Not being able to feed off the energy and ideas of others means that you alone, the solo host, has to be able to be enthused and animated when recording the show’s material. It’s like public speaking in an empty theater.

Podcast Guests Advantages

I would say that the majority of the podcasts I listen to and discover on the web are hosted by an individual who interviews guests. A few years ago, I produced a few shows with guests which were wonderful. But it was a bigger investment on my part than my solo show.

There are a number of reasons why having guests is a very popular podcast programming format:

It’s Like Having a Phone Conversation

While usually there is a list of questions that the podcast host will ask a guest, answering and discussing the questions can be as easy and natural as having a phone conversation.

A Significant Amount of Content Can Be Created in a Short Time

Like in a friendly phone conversation where time just seems to fly by, 30 to 60 minutes of audio footage can seem to be recorded without much effort. Try speaking for up to 30 minutes alone by yourself in a room with a microphone. It will seem like forever!

The Podcast Can Benefit from the Guest’s Star or Influencer Power (Plus, the Guest Wins, Too!)

Having a recognized expert, celebrity or influencer as a podcast guest can be a huge score for the show. Usually, the noted guest will have a social media and email following to whom the guest will promote the appearance on the show. This can bring in new listeners and subscribers for the show. Similarly, the guest may benefit from being promoted to the host’s audience.

It’s Less Development for the Host/Show Producer

All the podcast host really has to do is coordinate and produce the recording, develop some questions for the guest, and be able to converse with the guest about the topic during the recording.

Podcast Guest Disadvantages

Even with all these advantages, podcasts with guests can be super challenging because:

Guests Can Be Unpredictable and Uncooperative

Some guests may be extremely knowledgeable about their field of expertise, but be complete duds when it comes to speaking. Others may be overly nervous and unresponsive during recording. Ugh! So the host has to be very adept at managing these guests to salvage the recording.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, some guests may have zero respect for the show or the host, and can dominate the entire recording or be argumentative.

Even before the show opens, guests can be uncooperative in terms of scheduling or other details, which wastes the host’s time and energy.

Guests Can Be Technologically Challenged

Even if guests are technologically capable otherwise, they may be unfamiliar with the show’s recording procedures or how to behave during recording. Working out the kinks with some tests before the actual recording is recommended. But sometimes that’s not possible which means more time is spent wrangling with the technology during the recording session.

Every Guest Is a New Experience

The podcast host needs to be very flexible and adept at dealing with guests and their issues since every one is a brand new experience. This can be very energy draining.

Podcast Cohosts

A compromise that offers the positive energy of on-air personal interaction, but with less hassle once the technological and scheduling procedures are established, is having podcast cohosts. Frequently, podcasts are hosted by two people, sometimes with differing viewpoints, to add variety and multiple perspectives. This is another very common programming format.

The primary challenge with having multiple podcast hosts is that if one becomes uncooperative or unable to serve in the cohost role, the show quality can suffer and it may completely collapse. If a rift between the hosts is significant, the cohosts may choose to go their separate ways and have competing shows. As well, who will own the copyrights and other assets of previous cohosted shows? What if one cohost wants to close the show and the other doesn't?

As in any partnership or joint venture, it’s best to have a written agreement drawn up to cover these eventualities. Consult an attorney to create an agreement appropriate for both cohosts.

Should You Mix Formats?

I've experienced a number of podcasts that include multiple formats. Is that a good idea?

A show that I listen to has a solo podcast segment and a podcast guest segment in each episode. And it's about an hour long weekly episode. Wow! That's a big investment in development and production on a regular basis. So assess the investment in time and energy that would be required before plunging into a multiple format show.

However, an occasional guest episode for a solo podcast—or vice versa with an occasional solo episode for shows that usually have guests—can add some variety for both the host and listeners.

The tricky one for mixing is cohosted. Both cohosts need to agree on decisions about guests and solo episodes. Again, any deviations from the norm should be covered in a written agreement between the cohosts.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 14, 2018:

Hi Natalie!

I was just like you a while back. I wasn't sure if I had the tech ability to do a podcast. And, admittedly, I'm still learning as I go. It's one of those things.

But with the emphasis on audio content these days, I didn't want to get left behind. I figured I'd try to stay ahead of the curve.

I've written a number of other HubPages articles on podcasting. So check those out, too, for more about what I've learned from this adventure. And my show on iTunes/Stitcher is "The Heidi Thorne Show." I sometimes talk about podcasting there, too.

Thanks so much for reading! Let me know if you do dive into the podcast pool. Would love to hear what you have to say!

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on June 12, 2018:

Great post, Heidi. I've been thinking of at least learning what goes into a podcast to determine if it's possible for a tech idiot like me to consider creating one. Thanks for all the useful info. Your writing makes it seem like it's not a total impossibility even for those of us who may not be incredibly tech savvy.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 30, 2018:

Hey, Nell! Podcasting is a completely different experience from blogging like we do here on HP. A lot more tech stuff to consider. And it takes some practice to get used to recording audio. But once you're in the groove, it gets easier.

Let us know if you ever do take the podcasting plunge. We'd love to hear what you have to say... in your own voice. Cheers!

Nell Rose from England on May 29, 2018:

I have not tried podcasting but I was looking into it a while back. not sure what it entails, so I will have to do a lot of research. interesting stuff.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 29, 2018:

Donna, isn't it surprising that for a very visual art like knitting podcasting is popular? That is amazing. Please let me know when and if you start one for this craft. I'd love to hear what you come up with!

Thanks, as always, for your support and conversation! Have a beautiful day!

Donna Herron from USA on May 24, 2018:

Thanks Heidi for sharing your insight and experience in podcasting. I have yet to dip my toe into this technology, but I know that podcasting is very popular in the knitting community. It's definitely something that I am considering. Thanks for posting and sharing your knowledge!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 23, 2018:

Mary, guests can be a huge addition to any podcast, whether done occasionally or as part of the regular program format. If you ever experiment with podcasts and guests, let us know how it goes!

Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 23, 2018:

Thanks, Linda! You know, once you start down one of these paths, you keep learning. That's what most of my podcasts are... just like my blog posts. Appreciate your support and listening! Have a great day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 23, 2018:

Flourish, when I did some podcasts with guests a few years ago, I did send them the questions in advance. I think that's only courteous for them and it helps keep me on track, too.

Someday it might be fun to try the cohost format. I would be very picky about my partner though.

Thanks for chiming in and have a wonderful Wednesday!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 23, 2018:

So sorry, not sorry, Bill! I think your Mailbag would be an outstanding podcast one day. Maybe a post-farmer market season project. Have a great day anyway!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 22, 2018:

This is interesting. I wonder how it would be to have guests in your podcasts. I have spoken in public events but not in a staged podcast. I used to do videos with speakers but without guests. Surely, the guests would influence the interaction and enrich the podcast.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 22, 2018:

This is interesting information, Heidi. Much of it I haven't considered before. I'll listen to your podcast soon. I'm sure it will be useful, like your articles.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 22, 2018:

That’s quite an investment of time and energy! I can imagine that some guests might go rogue or clam up. Does it help to provide interview questions in advance? The cost format seems to be a good middle ground.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 22, 2018:

There you go, reminding me how much I'd love to do my own podcast. Sigh! Thanks a lot, friend! I was blissfully going about my morning, having forgotten all about podcasts,and you had to remind me. :)

Happy Tuesday, Heidi!