The Ideal Podcast Format For Your Brand

So we’ve established why a brand would want to make a custom podcast, and you’ve decided to take the plunge with your brand. But how to approach it conceptually?

As podcasting continues to evolve, plenty of new formats have emerged – and there is no “magic bullet” that makes the most sense for every show.

But by examining multiple variables – including, but not limited to,  talent schedules, budget, and the overall goal of the campaign – will help determine which format is right for your custom podcast!


Chat Podcast

One very popular podcast format is the chat-style show, which may feature an interview, co-hosted conversation, or roundtable panel. One example is Ruby's partnership with Gilead Sciences, In the Deep, in which host Zach Stafford interviews a different guest each episode about how they overcame hardship as Black and/or Latino men. This format might require less pre-production than others since the host is mostly tasked with guiding a conversation by asking insightful questions.

The co-hosted version of this format invites two hosts to converse with one another, allowing listeners to potentially feel like they are engaged in a conversation with friends. The organic style is especially appealing for those creators prioritizing authenticity.

Lastly, a panel podcast typically features one host and multiple guests that rotate throughout episodes. This format is typically best for news and political shows to offer listeners multiple opinions on topics, but it can also be great for shared storytelling, too.

Narrative Podcast

A narrative nonfiction podcast is much like a documentary, revolving around investigative stories. Between interviews, hosts may narrate parts of the story to provide additional context. With the ability to immerse listeners into the story, this format is often used for true crime or history series. And while it certainly allows for plenty of creative freedom, it will also require much more time and resources than a chat-based podcast will.

Scripted Podcast

The scripted podcast format more closely resembles a scripted TV series, following one storyline throughout the season and featuring voice actors performing as fictional characters. iHeartMedia’s Princess of South Beach is a modern “podvela” (or podcast telenovela!) about twins separated at birth, starring West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler. After one twin dies, the other takes on her sister’s identity and uncovers information about the family she grew up with.

There is less competition in this format – however, it will require the most production lead time and the highest budget of all.

Hybrid Podcast

A hybrid format would include a combination of any of the formats mentioned above. Ruby's podcast with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Amazing Wildlife, is a perfect example. The first half of the episodes includes a conversation about a specific animal between the co-hosts Rick Schwartz and Ebone Monet; in the second half, Ebone interviews an expert guest to provide more context on the animal. Such a hybrid format can be uniquely appealing to discerning listeners in a pool of so many other cookie-cutter productions.


Goal of the Podcast

Now that we’ve established the variety of podcast formats to choose from, there are a handful of factors we need to consider to make a selection. What is the goal of your podcast? What tone do you want the show to have?

For a lighter-hearted, more interactive tone, a co-hosted format might suit you best. If the show's goal is to dive deeper into nonfiction subject matter, a narrative format likely makes the most sense. Or if you want to expose your audience to expert-level advice that the host might not be able to provide on his or her own, the interview podcast format could be ideal.

Time and Schedules

Timing and scheduling are two key components to consider when selecting your format. How much time do you and your team have to dedicate to this show? Does the production team have a schedule that aligns? If you have plenty of lead time, you can consider a scripted format that will require more preparation. If you want to produce new content but have an immovable and imminent launch date (perhaps based on a holiday or event), then you might consider a format with a much lower lift.

Production Budget

Another important production factor? Money, money, money! Have you considered your budget for the podcast? In creating a scripted podcast series you would need to think about the cost for the voice actors, script writers, producers and editors. These costs will start to add up, considering the time and effort required by this format. A narrative series would also require more editing and writing, which will eat into a solid amount of the production budget. If the budget does not allow for additional writers, producers or editors, maybe a chat format – with authentic conversation and less editing – would be best.

Talent Fees

Talent fees typically make up the largest amount of a podcasting budget. Selecting the right host is equally important for alignment with your brand and reaching the right target audience. But with big talent also comes big fees. With our unique business model, iHeartRadio’s Ruby absorbs all of the production costs and talent fees. (Yes, it’s true!) We want your show to reach the largest number of listeners, so your entire investment goes towar promotion. However, massive hosts will come with additional fees attached; an A-list Hollywood name like Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler will raise the budget of the entire project and limit the number of formats you can explore with them.

When formatting a podcast, there is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all.” But taking into consideration the goal and tone of your podcast, the timing of its release, and your budget will help you with your decision. Choosing the best format for your show is crucial in ensuring that it can serve the purposes of your podcast. And by partnering with iHeartRadio, you will have the best team of producers, editors, and marketers in the business to make sure your podcast is of the highest quality and reaches the largest audience possible.

The results