A podcast is a digital medium that allows users to access audio files from a variety of online sources. Although the term “podcast” is often used interchangeably with “internet radio,” the two are distinct mediums. Podcasts are typically delivered as a series of episodes, with new episodes being added periodically.

Podcasts are a convenient way to listen to audio content, as they can be downloaded and listened to at the user’s leisure. Additionally, podcasts are often free to access, making them a cost-effective option for entertainment and education.

Types of Podcasts

  • Interview
    • The host or hosts speak with one or more guests each episode about the guest’s unique expertise or insights on a given topic, industry or theme. 
      • Expert interviews: In these podcasts, the focus is on a specific topic in which the interviewee is considered a thought leader. Many audience members listen to this type of podcast to learn more about a given industry or gain insights that they find interesting or useful.
      • Entertainment interviews:  These podcasts invite guests to share interesting stories about their lives.
  • Conversational
    • Conversational, co-hosted podcasts are very similar to traditional radio shows, in which two podcast hosts have entertaining conversations about specific themes and topics. Often, co-hosts will discuss trending news stories and provide insightful — or humorous — commentary. Conversational podcasts may include guests.
    • A high level of comfort and familiarity between the hosts is required. If the hosts don’t know each other well or don’t get along, the audience will be able to tell. Because you can’t script a conversation — or at least, you shouldn’t — this format is best for hosts who can improvise on the spot. 
  • Monologue
    • A solo host, who is usually an expert in a given field, speaks for the entirety of each episode. Audience members tune in to learn about a specific topic or get an informed opinion on recent events.
    • Hosts should have enough experience and expertise to fill many episodes, although it is possible to produce a limited-run podcast that covers a single topic or issue, similar to a serialized audiobook. The monologue format has the advantage of not depending on other people, so the host doesn’t need to book guests or configure schedules with another host.
  • Roundtable
    • A consistent or rotating group of hosts provide commentary and conversation around specific topics. For each episode, a main host MCs while co-hosts fill specific roles. For example, some co-hosts may provide more comedic commentary, while others offer in-depth expertise.
    • This type of podcast often tries to make audience members feel like they’re part of a private club. Roundtable podcasts take the stress off one person by splitting the workload among a number of different people. 
  • Storytelling/Investigative
    • These podcasts are immersive experiences that take the audience deep into a story.
  • Theatrical
    • Many theatrical podcasts have a single host who narrates a story in a similar manner as an audiobook.
    • However, other podcasts within this format use an entire cast of performers to create more immersive experience, with fictional worlds and characters that entertain listeners.
  • Repurposed Content
    • These podcasts use stories that can appear in print or on video. News programs are among the most common in this category.
  • Hybrid
    • Any of these types of podcasts can be used together to create an hybrid podcast. For example, a podcaster with expertise in a given subject area might host a monologue-style podcast and occasionally interview guests. Likewise, a panel show might split each episode into segments, including a space for the main host to present a monologue.

Podcast Idea & Concept Development

  • Develop an idea for a podcast
    • Almost any idea can be used for a podcast
    • Some of the most popular podcasts include talk shows, true crime stories, investigative journalism, reviews, politics, sports, and interviews, but any idea has the potential to be a podcast
  • Define your niche or topic
    • Narrowing down a topic or niche may seem limiting, but doing so will help you better focus your content and build an audience in the long term. It will also help you build trust and establish yourself as a subject matter expert.
    • Pick a topic that’s broad enough that you could reasonably talk about for multiple episodes, seasons, etc., but specific enough to draw in a certain type of person or demographic.
  • Identify the format for your podcast series
    • Fiction or non-fiction?
    • Talk show or storytelling?
    • Single host or multiple hosts?
  • Research existing podcasts
    • Is your idea already being done?
    • How is your idea different?
    • Before you dive into recording your first episode, it’s a smart move to do a little digging to see if there are any other podcasts that are similar.
    • You may find that there are few to no podcasts on your selected topic, or that your niche is already pretty crowded. Even if it’s the latter, doing your research can help you figure out how to position your podcast in a way that sets you apart.
  • Identify your target audience
    • Arguably the most important question you’ll need to answer before creating your podcast is: who is this podcast for? Having an ideal listener in mind will help you create content that is both valuable and relevant. Try to nail down basic information about your ideal listener, such as:
      • How old are they?
      • Where do they reside?
      • What do they do for work?
      • What forms of media do they already consume?
      • Do they already listen to any podcasts?
      • What do they do in their spare time?
      • What problems do they commonly face?
      • What do they wish they knew more about?
  • Write a synopsis and description for the podcast series
    • What is your series of podcasts about?
    • Who is your series of podcasts for?
    • What can listeners expect to hear in the series?
    • Why should people listen to your podcasts? What will they gain from listening?
    • How often/when do you release new episodes?
    • How/where can people connect with you other than by listening to your podcast series?
    • What is the theme of your series of podcasts?
  • Create an outline of six to eight podcasts in the series and write a synopsis for each episode
    • What is each episode about?
    • Does each episode fit with the overall theme of your series?

Structural Elements of a Podcast

1. Musical Intro

A musical intro for a podcast is a short clip of music played at the beginning of an episode. The intro sets the tone for the podcast and can give listeners a taste of what to expect from the episode. The intro should be catchy and memorable, so that listeners will associate it with the podcast.

A number of sites offer free music tracks that can be used for podcast intros. When downloading music tracks, make sure you have permission to use them.

Creative Commons licensing can have a variety of conditions on the use of digital content. Make sure you are clear on what you are permitted to do with any digital content you use.

Upload sample audio clips

A nice light eight-second intro music bumper for a podcast. (Podcast theme music by Transistor.fm used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License)

Free downloads of podcast music are available from numerous websites, including:

AI music generation software can also be used to create an intro track for a podcast.

2. Podcast Series Intro

A podcast intro is a short clip, typically under 30 seconds, that is played at the beginning of an episode. The intro introduces the podcast and its hosts, and gives listeners a taste of what to expect from the episode. The intro should be catchy and memorable, so that listeners will associate it with the podcast.

3. Teaser/Intro to Podcast Episode

The teaser is an introduction to the topic of a particular episode. It should be short — just a sentence or two — and give a brief overview of the topic of in a way that catches the audience’s attention and pulls them into listening to more of the podcast.

4. Promise

The teaser should catch the audience’s attention. The promise is a brief statement — one or two sentences — that tells the audience what they will discover if they listen to the entire podcast.

5. Welcome & Guest Intro

If the podcast will have one or more guests participating, this section welcomes them and gives a brief introduction of who the guest(s) is, what their area of expertise is, anything notable that they’ve done, and what the audience can expect from them during the podcast.

6. Body of the Podcast

This is the main content of the podcast. It could be a discussion with one or more guests, an opinion piece by the host of the podcast, the key information the host intends to deliver, or a fiction or non-fiction story. While the intro segments are important for giving a professional feel to the podcast, it is the content in the body of the podcast that listeners want.

7. Conclusion & Call-to-Action

The host needs to bring podcast to a close. This may be a summary of what has been discussed or one or two sentences that bring the episode to a conclusion.

If the podcast is asking listeners to do something, this “outro” should include a call-to-action that specifically asks the listener to take some kind of action.

Thank the the guests and audience in closing remarks.

8. Front Sell the Next Episode

Podcasts with multiple episodes usually have a short section — again, one or two sentences — that tells listeners what to expect of the next episode. This segment should get the audience’s attention and build a sense of anticipation for the next episode.

9. Goodbye for the Episode

A sentence or two is used to conclude the episode and say goodbye to the audience. This goodbye may be tailored to a specific episode or can be a standard closing to each episode in the series.

10. Music Fade Out

The music fade out is a signature that tells the audience the episode has been wrapped up. It should be very brief, perhaps just a few seconds.