When you’re first starting out with podcasting, it can be tough to figure out how to structure your episodes for maximum impact. There are a lot of different approaches you can take, and it can be hard to know which one will work best for you.
In this post, we’ll explore six different ways to structure your podcast episodes, and talk about the benefits and disadvantages of each. By the end, you should have a better idea of which approach is right for you and your show.
One popular approach to podcasting is to structure your episodes around a central theme or topic. This can be helpful if you want your show to have a consistent feel and focus. It can also make it easier to plan and produce your episodes, since you’ll always know what you want to talk about. There’s a lot of podcasts that use this approach, talking about a topic such as AI in Education (our EdgyTech Me podcast)
However, this approach can also be limiting. If you always structure your episodes around the same topic, if you’ve fully explored the topic you may find it more difficult to branch out and explore new territory. You may also find that your episodes start to sound the same after a while if your topic isn’t big enough.
If you’re looking for more flexibility, you may want to consider a looser structure for your episodes. This could involve picking a more general topic or a specific theme for each episode, but not being rigid about sticking to that topic. This approach can give you more freedom to explore different topics and experiment with your show.
However, it can also be more difficult to plan and produce episodes without a clear structure in mind. You may find yourself meandering and losing focus if you’re not careful. This can cost you listeners.
Another approach is to structure your episodes around interviews – whether on a specif theme or topic, an industry or a particular profession. This can be a great way to get different perspectives on a topic. You may also have a ready-made audience in a particular field if you’re focusing on specific industry or profession experts. It can also be more engaging for the listeners, since they’ll be hearing from people other than just the host. The diversity of perspectives, views and approach styles ‘mixes’ up your podcasts and makes them more interesting to listen to.
Another benefit of interviews is that you can use the interviewee’s audience to help grow your own. Help them promote the podcast to their fans with snippets, quotes and graphics and you can grow your own audience rapidly.
However, interviews can be time-consuming and difficult to coordinate. You’ll need to do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re talking to the right people, and you may need to edit the interviews significantly to fit them into your episode.
This is a far rarer approach for a full podcast, more done for specific episodes or ‘extra content’, but it is possible to structure a podcast around listener questions and interaction. This is a great way to make your show more interactive and engaging. It can also help you focus on the topics that your listeners are actually interested in hearing about.
This approach is best used when you have a pre-existing base of questions to start from. For example, if you run a business, you might have a common set of questions (FAQs) you’re always answering for clients – which you could turn into podcasts.
Not all listener questions will make for good podcast material. You’ll need to sift through the questions to find the ones that are most relevant and interesting, and you may need to do some additional research to be able to answer them properly.
This approach is probably best used for limited series podcasts, or as an alternate theme when you’ve built up a store of questions from your audience that you wish to address.
You could also try a narrative approach, where each episode tells a story or covers a specific event. This can be a great way to keep listeners engaged, and it can also make for some really memorable episodes. This is how a lot of ‘true murder’ podcasts and similar content is structured.
However, this approach can be difficult to pull off if you’re not a natural storyteller. It can also be tough to keep listeners hooked if the story isn’t particularly interesting or exciting.
Generally these types of podcasts take more time to plan out, as you’ll want the story to sound polished and move through stages to a resolution clearly. It does work well for multi-episode podcasts, treating each podcast as an episode – in which case structuring and planning is even more important as you’ll want to end each podcast at some kind of ‘cliff-hanger’ to entice the listeners back for the next.
However if you’ve a talent for storytelling and the time to put in the research and planning, this is a very effective and successful approach for building a dedicated following of listeners, who will come back for each new episode because they’re invested in the story you’re telling.
Finally, you could try a variety show format approach, where each episode include a series of short skits or segments, as you’d see on a variety show. This could involve having regular standard segments that appear in many episodes, or having a standard format (series of segments) that you use for each episode.
This approach can help give your show some consistency and make it easier for listeners to follow along. However, it can also make your show feel repetitive after a while if you don’t mix things up.
This is often best suited for comedic podcasts, or where you have a large number of hosts, who can ‘own’ specific segments within the overall podcast, meaning that they can be recorded individually and edited together later. This makes your podcast more modular and you may move segments between podcasts to better suit an overall theme or manage the length.
You’re not limited to choosing just one of the formats above, so why not take a mixed approach? You could have an interview show on a particular theme, that features a collection of short interview segments, or asks quests to answer listener questions.
There’s many ways to mix and match the different approaches above to create your own specific podcast theme, with the caveat that mixing it up too much may confuse and lose listeners who came for one thing and don’t stay for another. Overall its best to find a regular rhythm that works for you and your audience and stick with it – at least over a podcast season.
Each of these approaches has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s up to you to decide which is right for you, your show and your audience.
Whichever approach you choose, it is important to take some time to think about how you intend to structure your podcast, even if you take some time to bed it down, testing different formats with your fans. Because a sound structure will help you streamline the work involved in podcasting and provide your audience with a clearer view of what to expect from your podcast – which will help you find and build your fans.