Podcast Programming Formats
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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