Podcasts come in all genres — what makes each of them stand out?
As we mentioned in our content marketing trend predictions for 2021, podcasting is still on the rise. According to an annual survey of digital media consumer behaviour in America by Edison Research, 55% (155 million) of the US population has listened to a podcast in 2020 – up from 51% in 2019.
With the increasing popularity of smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, it’s no surprise that podcasts are steadily gaining traction. If you’re new to this content form, there’s plenty of options to choose from.
Before we dive into the various podcast genres, most podcasts can be categorised into two main styles: talk and story.
Primarily done in the style of a conversation, talk-driven podcasts require interesting, charismatic talent to cut through. It’s the personality that shines, be it the host or the guest(s).
The chemistry and the banter between the speakers draws the listeners in and keeps them hooked. There’s a reason why many of the most popular podcasts often feature guests who are celebrities or thought leaders in their field.
With little fluff on the production side, the discussion topics and the insights that the speakers bring to the table propel the episodes. The value of talk podcasts lies in the meaning of the content being discussed.
A significant amount of pre-production work goes into making talk podcasts. You have to research the content to be discussed and to find the right guests for the topics — and of course, they have to agree to come onto your show.
While spontaneity forms the backbone of the content, some basic scripting work is required to formulate the right interview questions, as well as possible answer prompts to ensure the conversation is steered in the right direction.
Post-production wise, talk podcasts are easy to edit. There isn’t much to be done as long as the sound quality is crisp. It’s basically a matter of editing for content — cutting out the bits that don’t fit the topic. Software options like Descript make this very simple by transcribing the entire recording. Users can cut and paste the text where necessary and the audio is edited automatically. There are also tools to auto delete filler words like “um” and “ah”.
In contrast, story podcasts require exceptional storytelling and great production values to boot.
These podcasts rely on a strong narrative to drive the show, and unlike talk podcasts, the identity of the hosts are secondary to the tales they tell. It’s not who they are that matters; it’s the story they narrate, and the way they do it.
Relying on heavy editing to splice together the whole story, these podcasts sometimes pull source material from other recordings, and are overlaid with sounds and music for a complete immersive experience.
The pre-production work required includes writing the script from start to finish, and mapping out exactly how the entire podcast should flow. Where in the narrative do the sound effects go? Where should secondary source recordings be put in? How should the recorded audio be altered or adjusted to stir the right emotions in the audience?
Some will make you cry from tears of laughter or by tugging at your heartstrings. Others may send chills down your spine, and maybe even give you a nightmare or two. The mind is capable of powerful imagination from auditory input after all.
But there are educational podcasts too, helping you learn everything from history to a new language. There are also podcasts that comprise insightful conversations with incredibly smart and witty personalities and thought leaders.
Whether you’re looking to consume or create your own podcasts, we dissect a few popular types to give you an idea of just how much potential this content form holds.
One of the most common forms of podcasts available, the conversation style has the host speaking to different guests about anything and everything under the sun. It’s a lot like your regular television talk-show, but audio-only.
Much of the appeal of these interview-based podcasts lies in the insightful and sometimes quirky conversations with famous people that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Remember that Joe Rogan episode where he had Elon Musk smoke a joint over discussions on topics like humanity, AI and Tesla?
The setting matters, and these podcasts offer a human glimpse of the guests outside of their seemingly star-studded lives. Perhaps these exchanges are interesting simply because they’re relatable and familiar — the intimacy of the conversation takes away much of the mystery that shrouds those living in the limelight.
Even brands can demystify themselves and share their human side. Luxury automobile brand Porsche does just that with their Porsche podcast. Hosted by the vice president of communications, sustainability and politics, each episode features two guests (magic-makers from Porsche and beyond) and is centred around discussion topics like tech, business and thought leadership.
Learning is a lifelong journey. With podcasts, you get to learn while you’re on the go, be it your morning commute or on your evening run.
In fact, any time you’re doing something less than mentally stimulating — driving, walking to the grocery store, or even doing your laundry — you can pop in your headphones and listen to an educational podcast at the same time.
Since 2019, we’ve been working with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on their entire Foreseeable podcast series. Hosted by our editorial content director David Austin, the podcast features various faculty members discussing their areas of research while providing an insightful look at current world affairs.
While they’re definitely not a perfect replacement to formal education, for most of us regular folk, it’s enough to get our brain juices flowing.
No time to attend actual language classes? Why not listen to a podcast, such as Learn French by Podcast? Each episode is conversational, and centres around simple everyday topics like “how to introduce yourself” — complete with relevant vocabulary.
By breaking down complex subjects into easily digestible bite-sized chunks, educational podcasts encourage learning even through passive listening.
One of the reasons why people listen to podcasts is that they want to be entertained, and what better way to entertain than with something funny?
Ever heard of WTF with Marc Maron? Hosted by stand-up comedian Marc Maron, this podcast series blends “The Conversation” genre mentioned earlier with witty comebacks and fun stories through the conversations he has with his guests.
And if you missed the live broadcast of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah — no problem. The Daily Show: Ears Edition is the funny podcast companion for your regular dose of late-night news satire, complete with highlights and extended interviews. It’s also a pretty good example of omni-channel content.
There’s something in human nature that finds fascination in the eerie, the creepy and the macabre. Maybe it’s the thrill of the mystery, or maybe it’s the lure of the unknown, but there’s no doubt that scary podcasts are a big thing.
The horror genre of podcasts revolves around things that go bump in the night: ghosts, werewolves, vampires, spooky supernatural stuff — you name it.
The Lore podcast by Aaron Mahnke is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed podcast that examines dark historical tales through folklore, and presented in a style that’s the modern equivalent of a campfire experience.
Apart from just being creepy content, there’s something about the audio-only medium that makes the narrative so much more engaging.
The power of storytelling truly shines through. Listening purely to audio allows people to build, in their head, their own versions of the scenes of the story. And if you’re listening to a ghost story on earphones, how much more immersive and intimate can this experience get?
Of course, scary podcasts aren’t complete without true crime. For everyone who grew up on Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Lee Child, the excitement of figuring out whodunnit just can’t be beat.
With true crime podcasts, that same thrill is compounded by the rare glimpse into the mind of the criminal, and of course, the heartbreak for the victims and their families. Sometimes the mysteries are still unsolved, and that’s what compels the listener to keep on listening.
Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad is an innovative podcast that takes this whole mystery thing a step further. Forget being a passive listener, retired cold case investigator Paul Holes and true crime journalist Billy Jensen encourage listeners to contribute their own research to tackle unsolved cases.
And believe it or not, they did actually score a breakthrough in a decades-old murder case, culminating in the arrest of an actual suspect.
Who can forget the TED Talk? Inspirational, informative, and engaging, TED Talks are a genre on their own.
The annual conference features expert speakers from all around the world who talk about topics ranging from education to business, to science and tech.
Perhaps the best example of thought-leadership content, you can get your daily dose of TED Talks in a podcast format. There’s more than one series available: There’s one on work, there’s one on business, and there’s even one that’s focused on self-improvement.
The list goes on, but regardless of how niche the subjects are, these ideas are definitely worth spreading.
Without a doubt, you need a great podcaster if you want to plan and produce a great podcast — especially for the story format. The podcaster, apart from being the host, is also often the ringmaster who runs the show — coming up with talking points, and scheduling the right guests.
Whether it’s for entertainment, education, advertisement, or all of the above, a podcast is an excellent way to bring value to your consumers, or even share information internally within an organisation.
It’s clear that the various podcast types have overlapping elements, but therein lies the beauty of this content form. With a myriad of genres to choose from, each of them successful in their own way, don’t be afraid to experiment and mash them up to create the right one that fits your brand.
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Click2View is Southeast Asia’s premiere full-service independent B2B content marketing agency servicing clients like Microsoft, Google, Visa, Prudential, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.