Choosing a Format for Your Podcast
Here are the questions to ask when it comes to choosing a format for your podcast:
- Will you be doing the podcast solo or will you have other hosts?
- What segments do you want to do (e.g. tip of the day, reviews, breaking news, interviews etc.)?
- How long will your podcast be?
- How often will you release new shows?
- Will you just be talking or will you play music as well?
- Maybe you will buck the norm and come up with something completely different?
SIDENOTE: If you plan to use music in your podcast that is not your own, you need to get permission to use it. It's not legal to use copyright material in your podcast without permission.
You should form a basic idea of how you want to structure your podcast. There is one rule to keep in mind:
1. There are no rules with podcasting (just keep it legal)
You can cough into the mic once a week and post it to the internet if you want. Just know that I won’t listen to it.
Also, just because we are talking about a “plan” and a “format” does not mean that this stuff is set in stone. You will certainly change your mind as time goes on. You will add things and drop things. Eventually you will find your groove and settle into what works well for you.
But it’s good to start out with an outline so you have an idea of where you're going. It will make the process easier and also make your podcast better. A better podcast means more listeners and more fun for you.
Let’s talk about a few things to consider when you choose a format for your podcast.
Should You Have A Co-Host
There are a lot of solo podcasts out there. Some podcasts have two or more hosts. One popular format is the husband-wife team who get together in front of the mic and talk. There are also podcasts with several participants discussing a topic at the same time.
You can even co-host a show with someone who lives in another state or another country. This is often done using internet phone software called Skype.
There are advantages to having a co-host:
• Many listeners find the discussion between multiple hosts more interesting than just one person talking
• With multiple hosts you can split the work required to produce the podcast
• There are more people to come up with ideas and content for your shows
This comes with the added complication, though, of coordinating the schedules of multiple people, maybe even across time zones.
The advantage to going solo is that you're totally in control. Again, many podcasts are done solo.
I do solo podcasts as well as a co-hosted podcast.
What Kind of Segments Will Your Podcast Have
What do I mean by segments? Back before podcasting (and when I had a 9-to-5 job and drove to work and before I lived in Manhattan) I listened to the local “morning zoo”-type show on the radio.
They had certain segments that they did every morning. I always knew that they would do the serious news, then later the silly news, then the stupid people awards, then an interview and so on.
These were the segments that they always did. If you watch the morning shows on the TV or radio shows on NPR it's the same. There are certain segments that they do on each show.
What segments will your podcast have?
“BUT WAIT! I thought you said podcasting had no rules and was different than corporate radio!”
I’m not saying to make your show predictable and stale. But your listeners like to know what to expect. Familiarity and structure are comfortable. Having a planned structure will also make producing your podcast easier for you. The point is that a little thought and planning is helpful at this stage.
Here is an example segment structure for a music podcast:
1. Intro Theme Song
2. Welcome Message
4. Song Intro
6. Song Intro
8. Music News
9. Song Intro
11. Final Comments
12. Outro Theme Song
Here is an example segment structure for a tech news podcast:
1. Intro & Welcome
3. Top 10 Tech News Headlines with Commentary
4. Tech Quick Tip
Here is an example segment structure for a review show (movies, food, etc.):
1. Intro Theme Song
4. First Review
5. Second Review
7. Third Review
8. Final Comments
9. Outro Music
These are just examples. Find a structure that works for you and your listeners and then don’t be afraid to change it up a bit when it seems appropriate. You can still be spontaneous.
Are You Going to Use Music in Your Podcast
Even if you don't have a music podcast, you may still want to use music in your podcast. Music is a great way to change things up and drive the show forward.
You can use music to transition between segments. This adds variety and keeps things moving. It also serves as a cue that you are moving into something new or changing gears.
Music makes a good intro. Having an intro theme song is useful for a couple reasons:
- When your listener hears your theme song, it instantly cues them in that they are listening to your show.
- An intro song raises the energy level and gives you some momentum going into the show.
If you think you'll want to use music in your podcast, there are some legal considerations. For more info on using music, click here.
How Long Should Your Podcast Be
The beauty of podcasting is you're not limited to the typical broadcast radio timing. If you listen to a talk show on the radio, everything is timed to the commercials and the “top of the hour”.
But now you're in control. Your podcast can be five minutes or it can be 45 minutes. When you decide how long your podcast is going to be, you should think about what's appropriate for your audience. How long of a podcast will your audience listen to?
If the purpose of your podcast is to cover the latest news on a certain topic for the busy professional who is commuting to work, then you probably want to keep it to 15-20 minutes. If you're podcasting a speech from a conference, then it will probably be an hour or more.
Your Podcast Should Be As Long As It NEEDS To Be
I know, that is really general advice. What I mean is, make it long enough to serve its purpose, but not so long that you will bore or lose your listener.
When I performed live in a rock band, I learned that it was best to leave the crowd wanting more at the end of the show. I think this applies to your podcast as well. There is a point where the momentum is just right to wrap things up. With time, you will find the happy medium. I would suggest being consistent in how long your shows are so your listeners know what to expect.
In GENERAL, my personal opinion is that a 20-30 minute show is a good length. Your listeners might listen to a lot of podcasts. If you want your podcast to be one that they listen to regularly, then you don’t want to take up more of their time than you need to.
But I have a podacst that usually goes longer than 30 minutes because it feels right. This is my co-hosted podcast, so it is easier to change things up and keep it interesting for longer.
In the end, you know what's best for you, your show and your audience.
How Much Time Will It Take to Make Your Podcast
Just because you do a 20-minute show doesn't mean that you will only spend 20 minutes a week creating your podcast. Your time commitment will vary depending on how much preparation you need and your experience.
Keep in mind that the longer your show is, the longer is it will take to produce it. Many podcasters spend 2-4 times the length of their show just on preparation before and publishing afterwards.
How the Length of Your Show Affects Your Web Hosting
We will talk more about podcast web hosting later, but for now you need to know that the longer your shows are, the more storage you will need. The longer the show, the larger the MP3 file.
Also, a larger show means you need more bandwidth for your web site. Bandwidth is the amount of information transferred to and from your web site each month. There is a limit to how much you can transfer.
With most web sites this is not a problem, but with podcasts it can be a problem because of the size of the MP3 files. We will talk more about bandwidth later. For now just know that the longer your podcast, the larger the MP3 file and the more bandwidth you will need for your hosting.
How Often Will You Post Your Podcast
Will you do your show daily, weekly, monthly or just whenever you feel like it? This will depend largely on how busy your life is. How much time does your job, family or other obligations take up? Take an inventory of your life and estimate how much time you will have to work on your podcast.
Stay in Regular Contact with Your Listeners
It's important, if possible, to have a regular schedule for posting your show. Weekly podcasts are very common. Some shows post on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. If you have a regular schedule it will help with listener loyalty. They will know when to expect from you and look forward to your new shows.
This is one of those do as I say and not as I do things. With my busy schedule, I don't always get my podcasts out when I plan to. But do your best. I'm working on getting better at this.
If you're podcasting for business or promotion, then I would suggest doing at least one podcast a week. Bi-weekly may work, but it's important to have regular contact with your listeners. Every day that goes by your listeners forget about you a little more.
I used to be a guitarist in a band. We played regular lives shows and sent out an e-mail newsletter. I noticed that if we let a couple months go by without playing a gig or sending an e-mail to our list, then our show attendance would suffer.
People have short attention spans and short-term memory. You want to stay in the minds of your listeners on a regular basis.
Bandwidth is an issue here, too. The more often you post your podcast, the more people will be downloading from your site which requires more bandwidth from your hosting.
How Often Can You Get Fresh Content for Your Podcast
How much fresh content is available for your show and how often can you get it? For example, if your podcast is news-based, how often does interesting news on your topic come along? How often can you create the content for your show?
Spending some time now making some decision about how you plan to format your podcast will make only make your show more enjoyable for your listeners, but it will also save you a lot of time and hassle in the future.
Spend a little time deciding how long your podcast will be, how often you will post new show, and what your typical show outline will be. These are important decisions that will affect your time commitment and enjoyment making your show. They will also determine what kind of web hosting you need.
With all this in mind, remember that, you know what's best for you, your show and your audience when it comes to the length and frequency of your show.
One final suggestion I have is to spend some time listening to other podcasts. Pay attention to how long they are. How long of a podcast do you like as a listener? Take note of their structure and the segments used in each show. What segments do you find enjoyable? Jot down some ideas.
Now we need to find a location for you to record your podcast.