It’s easy to think of long-form interviews when you think of podcasts. But there are so many more ways to create a great podcast, and interviews may not be the best choice for you. One of the early conversations we have with clients is honing in on the format of a show that plays to their strengths and meets their goals. There are a few key indicators that will help you figure out the format that fits you and your brand best.
In this episode Tiff and Christine go over the questions to ask yourself as you decide the format of your podcast and how to make the best decision for your show.
“Take note of the shows that you love listening to again and again.”Christine Baird
- (0:55) How to decide on the length of your episodes
- (3:53) Why interviews aren’t always the best format for podcasts
- (10:11) How to use the power of a seasonal show
- (16:15) Be your own listener avatar
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- Tiff Tyler
- Christine Baird
- Aspiring Podcast Hosts & Producers – check out the Think Like a Producer Membership Group
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Many thanks to our production team
- Worthfull Media for audio editing
- Mosaico Productions for video editing
- Amela Subašić for artwork
Transcription of this episode:
(auto-generated, please forgive typos)
Welcome to Think Like a Producer podcast. I’m your co-host Christine Baird.
And I’m your co-host Tiff Tyler. Being in the podcast industry, being in the content creation industry. This is what we learned, and this is how you can get out of your own way and get started.
You name it. We’ve probably done it. This podcast is about bringing all the wisdom to you. Tune in weekly, to learn how to think like a producer.
Camera was a little bit tilted. All right. Welcome to this episode of think like a producer today, we’re answering the question that we get very often, but it’s, it can be a simple answer. So we’re going to do our best to answer this in a very short and concise way for you, but a way that you’re going to get as much information as possible. And the question that we get is how should I format my show? A very good question. Um, because there are all kinds of formats when it comes to a show, mainly what people usually ask. They ask about the length of the show. Should I have a 15, 20 minute episode? Should I go for 90 minutes, two hours? There are some people that go for three hours. It’s not a bad thing. Um, but it does make sense, like to really choose what’s going to work best for you.
So what I do want to say, cause I think this might be a bit confusing for people. Shorter does not mean better. Some people like, I mean, I guess you can think about like a TV show. Do you, you know, TV shows that can get the story across in maybe 20, 23 minutes. Awesome. But there’s also amazing movies that can get the story across in 90 minutes and years. Like I wish it went longer. I can’t wait for the sequel. So don’t think that the length of your episode is going to make it a better or worse show. It’s really about what you’re including in the episode. So when we talk about length, that doesn’t necessarily mean better if it’s shorter or if it’s longer, what I’d like to emphasize is, you know, bandwidth, if you are going to do one episode a week, maybe four in a month, right?
Do you have enough time to edit a 20 minute episode? Do you have enough time to edit a 90 minute episode, maybe an hour long episode? And I asked that because I’ve been on some recent calls with clients and they are sort of confused even, I’m just like, how do I edit? How long is it going to take me to edit? And of course the longer the episode, the longer the editing time. Um, but really what I want to emphasize is just having a good beginning, middle and end, which we were going to go into depth on maybe another episode about really the content of the, um, of the podcast. But just understanding that like a 20 minute episode can include a really good interview. I think also some things that people get confused about is like, well, if I’m going to interview somebody, if I’m going to like get into a really in-depth conversation, it has to be an hour and an in a 90 minute episode.
And I want to say that some people cut their interviews down. There are some shows that cut a lot of the fluff out of it and really bring it down from maybe they recorded for 45 minutes and they brought it down and cut it down to like just the best, most juicy nuggets of the episode down to 20 and 25 minutes. Then there are some shows that go just without a lot of editing. I know we worked on a show that there was basically a request that we didn’t edit and that everything was just coming off as natural as possible. Even if the guest or the host just took a pause to think for a little bit, it’s really about, I would say like, what is the show about, right? Like, is this something that it’s just you and your friends talking about topics that you love and it’s movies and entertainment, is this a show that’s like, no, I really want to talk about self-improvement and self-development I want to go deep.
And I, you know, so think about what you’re putting out there and let the length support the message, let it support what you’re trying to do, trying to do as much as possible. So don’t think in order for it to be good, it has to be 20 minutes. It has to be 45 minutes. It has to be 90 minutes really just think about what’s going to be the best for me. How, how long can I record? How long is it going to take me to edit? Especially if I don’t have a team and I’m doing it on my own and really like, what’s going to be, what do I like? And we’ll talk about this a little bit more later on the episode, but Christine, you’re going to talk about something. I get asked a lot and I think that people don’t, you know, they don’t think enough about, so what is your tip when it comes to formatting the show?
Yes. Okay. Most people, when they think of podcasting, they think interviews for good reason. That’s largely how podcasting gained popularity, you know, of several years ago, was these interview style shows where someone interesting would interview someone interesting. And obviously the best shows happened when there was really great chemistry. When the host of the show was awesome at interviewing and understood how to get great stories. That’s how people really fell in love with podcasting in the kind of indie world. Obviously we all remember when Serial came out and that was much more of a journalistic style, you know, investigative reporting show, totally different format and brilliant, but we had context for it from like TV series. You know, there was already an established way for people to associate with a show like cereal. And obviously if you look today, like a lot of the top podcasts or NPR, New York Times, they’re news podcasts, which totally translates from radio.
So that makes a lot of sense. But when open podcasting or independent podcasting, right creators just turning on the microphone and creating something from scratch, the way it really got into people’s hearts was through these long form interview style shows. Now the world has evolved a lot and podcasting has evolved a lot, and that is no longer the only way to do a really successful podcast if you’re an independent podcaster, but it’s understandable that a lot of people think podcasting, Oh yeah. Like an interview show. And so you might very well have thought, Oh, I’m going to have a podcast. Of course, I’m going to interview people. That’s awesome. If that actually fits with your strengths and actually is bringing the best out of it. I view a lot of people, guest interviews are not the best for them. It doesn’t play to their strengths and it might not be the best format.
So I’m just going to highlight some of the other strategies for formatting to show, not based on guest interview. And of course I’ll highlight like why guest interviews are still really great. So if you know that you are a really good listener, like you’ve gotten this feedback a lot in your life and people often tell you how good of a conversationalist you are and wow, you’re just such a good listener. And you know, if you’re ever in a group and you make a comment or a question and people are like, wow, that was an amazing question. Those would sort of be indicators that you might actually have an innate ability to interview really well. Obviously, if you’re professionally trained in interviewing, you already know you have this skill, so kind of preaching to the choir if you’ve been a professional already in hosting or interviewing whether from a journalism background or, you know, another one.
But if you’re kind of like, I don’t know, um, maybe I haven’t tried think about the feedback you’ve gotten throughout your life from just people who know you or people who’ve interacted with you in professional settings, group settings, conversational settings, have people giving you that feedback because that’s a clue that you actually might have some innate. Excellent. Now on the flip side, you might have a background in coaching or public speaking, and that would probably be good feedback that you actually have the talent to hold a model log pretty well. Right? So a lot of coaches who have podcasts are really just sharing their best coaching on, you know, a microphone out to reach more people than they could in a one-on-one session or a live event. So coaches, oftentimes it makes total sense for them to have a solo show where they really don’t do guest interviews.
They may incorporate like questions from the audience where people can call in, you know, and leave a voicemail and the answer, the question or email, whatever. There’s a lot of ways to do that. But for a lot of coaches and speakers, it really makes way more sense for them to just turn on the microphone and present their content because that’s their strength. They’ve done it again and again and again, they have years of experience. They know they’ve hone that skill and oftentimes coaches or speakers. Aren’t great interviewers, not because they’re just bad it’s because they haven’t practiced that skill. And it may actually not be a core talent of theirs. You know, most people who are gifted in public speaking and coaching are not so gifted with all the other skills. So the main point here is, think about what your strengths are, and don’t just automatically assume I’m going to have a podcast.
I’ve got to interview people. I’ve talked to plenty of clients who, after going through this process with me were like, Oh, I realize now how well suited I am to, and others who are like, I have zero interest in doing a solo episode. Like not at all. I only want to do this if I’m talking to someone live. So those are some helpful questions to ask yourself a little bit of reflection. Obviously there’s all sorts of podcasts, formats that you could explore that we’re not going to go super deep into narrative. For example, your storytelling you could do ones that are meditations, you could do comedy. Like there’s so many formats to podcasting, but a lot of the work we do and kind of our background is with influencers and personal brands. So we’re kind of keeping this conversation focused on the main formats that those kinds of people use podcasting for.
But of course the sky’s the limit. Like the main thing to think is what are your strengths? What will really serve your audience? And is this a creative project? Like, is this just a fun kind of side hobby that you’re wanting to stretch your wings and try something new? Or is this actually a very strategic part of your business where you are going to go all in on your strengths and play to the very best you can and use this as a tool to attract customers and build your brand and all of that. So we’ve talked about this on other episodes, kind of the strategy of coming up with your show concept, but specifically for this episode, we wanted to dive deeper on the format so that you can really critically think what is the goal of my show, what format will best support it. And really for me as the host, like, what are my strengths? Like, how am I going to do this best? Okay. So that is kind of point number two, you think about the length point. Number one, think about whether you’re going to guest interview or whether you’re going to go with another format point number three, Tiff, what is a huge part of formatting that our listeners should consider it?
Think ahead in seasons, we’re thinking about how many episodes we want in each season. We kind of like had a bit of a debate. Do we want 22? Do you want 30? But just picking when we’re going to end and how many episodes are going to have allows us to think a little bit ahead and kind of give us a good game plan moving forward. So if you haven’t started a show yet, and you’re kind of like, okay, I’m taking notes, I’m listening to what you’re both saying. I’m thinking about the format of the show, but how do I really make a decision? Well, if you’re still kind of struggling with it, if you think, okay, I’m going to do 15 episodes in this season and maybe I want to do a mix of interviews and souls like Christine talked about, and I’m going to do five interviews and there’ll be 10 solo episodes.
Now you’ve given yourself a goal of, okay, I just need to get five people locked in a good date and a good time for us both to sit down and talk. I don’t have the pressure of having to, you know, constantly every week, think about who I’m going to talk about, Oh, who I’m going to talk to. Um, when I’m going to talk about, you know, this particular topic or, you know, how many episodes am I going to end at? Like just too many questions, if you don’t really choose an end. So before you start choose the end, choose how many episodes going to have in the season when the season is going to be over. And we talk about this already in other episodes, but film ahead of time, or just record your audio ahead of time so that you can have just some breathing room when it comes to even just scheduling these interviews out.
If that’s what you choose to do, um, a client that had talked to you the other day, I was just like, have somebody listen to your episode? Like, if you’re really struggling with this whole like 20 minute, hour long format, if you’re struggling, whether or not you are a good listener and you’re asking all the questions that Christine just told you to ask yourself, but you’re like, I don’t really know myself well enough. I think I’m a good listener, but I’m not sure ask for feedback. I ask Christine all the time, like, how was that? You like that? Oh, you know, did I say something a little bit off? What did you think about it? It’s great to have that kind of, um, camraderie, but just someone you can trust that you will really tell you. Uh, and you know, won’t fluff things out for you.
Like my mom, she loves us. He’s like our number one, uh, uh, fan on the episode, I tell people all the time, because she’ll tell me, you know, Hey, you know, this sound a little bit weird, or that was a really great point or a man, Tiff. I put together my non-negotiables for the year. And I’m so excited. Like she gives us so much feedback on the show and she’ll be straightforward with me. She’s a Jamaican mother. Like she will tell me exactly. What’s often like what she thinks we should do better. So I’m saying all this to say, you don’t have to have all this pressure on yourself when you’re picking and going through everything. We’re talking about length, uh, interview length show type. Um, and then also the seasons, you can just literally record an episode that may never air that literally may be just you and your person.
That’s holding you accountable will listen to you and you can ask them, how did that sound? Did anything kind of drop off? Did you feel engaged the entire episode? Did you want more, do you think it should have been longer really just asking? I just feel like why not? If I was doing a show totally by myself, I think I’d send like five episodes to Christine before I would air anything. Just tell me what you think. Am I rambling? Just let me know. Um, so that’s just something I wanted to bring up when it comes to this. You’re not alone. You can ask for feedback. And another thing that we did is we pulled our audience for some things too. Like we don’t try to come up with every idea for every show. When we were thinking about this, we did choose a shorter format because Christina already has a long episode, a podcast, by the way, we’re a full project, but, um, we just wanted to keep it short and concise and something that people can listen to you and do something with immediately.
But we’re really not trying to make these very, very long hour long tutorials. That will be almost like having a, I won’t say like, almost like an online course on podcasting. This is really just meant to be some tips to help you grow and to help you learn if a show is really what’s meant for you. So saying all that to say, don’t put all the pressure on yourself, ask for feedback, um, choose when you’re going to end, let, let yourself like really have an end date. The season will be over at this date with this many episodes and I can give myself a break. I can even listen back to my episodes and decide whether or not I liked what I did in season one. And I can maybe do a little bit of a change up in season two and make the episodes shorter or longer.
So the great thing about podcasting, which we’ve been emphasizing every episode before this, this is completely yours. No one is telling you what to do. No one is telling you what is right or wrong. Just sticking to making a good episode that you’re proud of, that you’re proud to share, and that’s doing some good in the world, whatever that looks like Christine already had an amazing, um, I just, I don’t think it was a speech. I would say Christine, but it was just a very good like call to action to make sure that you’re doing something, you know, that’s just improving the world around you with whatever the show is. And like I said, in that episode, entertainment can improve the world too. So it doesn’t have to be all about self-improvement. Doesn’t have to be the interviews. Interesting people interviewing interesting people. It doesn’t have to be journalism.
It can do, it can be whatever really calls, um, to you. But I just really want to emphasize, don’t let the format of your show, stop you from starting your show. There are many things you can do to just get going. It won’t be perfect. You will need to practice over and over and over again to get better. I am practicing all the time. If you’re listening to this episode, Christine may not have included bloopers, but if you watch the episode on YouTube, you will see that I love to include the bloopers because I just love to show that I am not perfect at this. I am improving and doing my best to improve every week and every time we record. But if you really think I have to be perfect, everything has to be completely like in place in every box checked. Before I start my show, you could really be holding yourself back from putting something amazing out into the world. All right. That was my little rant, Christine. Uh,
Just to wrap it up. The main thing we want to encourage you to do is take note of podcasts that you really love to listen to, because that will ultimately probably be your best guide when you choose your own format. If you’re your own kind of listener avatar, meaning you’re essentially making your show because you’re the person who’d want to listen to it. This is pretty common, right? Um, take note of the shows that you love listening to again and again and again, and again, notice the format, notice what works and maybe what doesn’t, that’s actually ultimately going to be your best guide. I just, yesterday started listening to the brand new Spotify exclusive podcast between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. They just dropped it this week. It’s called Renegade: Born in the USA. I mean, that’s so them, and I’m probably not their target demographic to be honest, but I am really enjoying this first episode.
They’re doing it entirely their own way. They like met up at Bruce’s know, New Jersey studio, magical home. And they just recorded over the course of a few days, like a series of conversations, you know, sitting at his table in his beautiful, like recording studio. You see like the cover photo that they released in the press. And it just looks like the dreamiest situation for these two, like old dads, you know, like talking about, you know, America and how to heal it. And it’s so cool to listen to them again, I’m not their target demographic per se, but I really appreciate that. They made a show that they would listen to. You’re like, this is so you guys, you know, and so I think that’s been like a recent inspiration. I think it’s really good to listen to a variety of shows and notice if you, if you’re kind of new to podcasting and you haven’t necessarily listened to a lot, kind of go through the top charts in each category and listen to five or 10 minutes of an episode from, you know, a comedy show and a storytelling show and a research show and a health show and an interview show, and like, just get a feel for what you like, because that will really set you in the best direction to keep making content that you like.
So those are our tips on formatting. Of course, if you have questions, leave us a comment on the show notes, page DMS on Instagram at think like a producer, you’re always welcome to email us. It’s not hard to find us. So let us know if you have more questions and if you want us to do more content, we wanted to give a, a pretty thorough, um, episode on formatting. But obviously we didn’t cover everything. So if you’re enjoying the show as always, it means so much to us. If you leave us a review of this podcast on Apple podcasts, uh, we read all of them. The feedback’s invaluable, but it’s more important for other people who are checking out their show to see the social proof that you think it’s a good show. So we’re always so grateful when you leave us a review, subscribe to the show. We release an episode every Thursday, we’re on YouTube. If you’d rather see the beautiful visual companion of these episodes, that Tiff cuts and does include a lot of bloopers that I cut out of the audio. Um, but above all, thank you so much. And we will see you on the next episode.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Think Like a Producer. This has been a Worthfull Media production. Massive thanks to our team who makes the show possible. Worthfull Media for audio editing, Jorge and Veronica from Mosaico Productions for video editing and effects and Amela Subasic for our amazing artwork and graphics.
If you want to learn more about how to market, monetize, and grow your podcast, we have a membership group where you can get more access to us and feedback on your show. As a special bonus, you get free access to Christine’s DIY, do it yourself, podcast course when you join the group. Check the link in the show notes for more information.
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