Choosing the Right Podcast Format (and How to Make a Change)

Have you always had the same podcast format and have never thought about changing it? Or has the thought of switching things come up recently, but you’re worried about possible consequences?

If you’re like most podcasters, you’ve probably had the same overall format since day one. But should you make a change? If so, how? And do you need to announce it to your listeners beforehand?

Good news! It isn’t complicated at all! And there are advantages and disadvantages to any structure you use for your show.

In this episode of The More Profitable Podcast, you’ll learn the three most common formats we create for podcasts and the pros and cons of each. I’ll also discuss what to do when changing the format of your show (whether overall or for just occasional episodes), the strategic purpose behind whatever structure you choose, and why it’s not the format that matters in the end.

4:55 – The guest interview format and why I call it the “lazy choice”

8:10 – How we do roundtable discussions to highlight the advantages and mitigate the one disadvantage of this format over traditional guest episodes

13:02 – Why you must have solo episodes (even if just occasional ones) and why this format can feel like a heavy lift

17:46 – Another caveat to solo episodes and an example of the biggest benefit they give you as a podcast host

19:34 – How to approach using different formats on your show for your audience

22:59 – Why your show’s format doesn’t really matter (as long as you do this) and the importance of a strategy-based format decision

Mentioned In Choosing the Right Podcast Format (and How to Make a Change)

Podcasting for Profitability Roundtable

Podcast Strategy Intensive

The Roles Guests Should Play In Your Podcast

3 Ways to Feature Guests On Your Podcast 

3 Mistakes Podcast Hosts Make With Their Guests

How to Record Better Podcast Interviews

The Hard Truth About Why You’re Not Batching Your ContentThe Real Reason You Can’t Batch Your Podcast (and why it’s costing you big time)

When was the last time you thought about your podcast format like an interview or solo episodes, roundtable discussions, the different kinds of shows of episodes you could do, when was the last time you thought about yours? If you're like most podcasters, it hasn't been since you first were deciding what you were going to do with your show, or maybe this has come up more recently and you're like, “I'd like to make something different. I don't know if I can. Do I need to make an announcement?”

That's what today's episode is for. We're going to discuss these different kinds of formats, the pros and cons of each, and then we'll talk about using them to effectively engage and educate our clients because remember, no matter what format, the goal of our show remains the same: to generate, educate, and convert right-fit clients.

Welcome to The More Profitable Podcast with Stacey Harris. I'm Stacey. This is the spot to learn more about the strategies, tactics, and tools you need to build your more profitable podcast. My team and I work every day with podcasters like you to shift shows from frustrating time sucks to productive members of your sales team, because your show should be built to generate and convert leads. So let's get into it.

I'm really excited to dig into this because, little inside baseball here, this was one of those things where as I evaluated the show, as I did my review last quarter, and was like, “Oh, what do I want to talk about?” I realized this was something that came up fairly frequently, especially in the Podcasting For Profitability Roundtables, especially in the Profitable Podcaster Mastermind, especially in our intensives.

It comes up less frequently with production. Occasionally, in early production, we'll have a conversation about it, but more often than not, this comes up in the mastermind and it comes up in intensives. It was something that came up a lot over the course of the last six, eight months so I wanted to dig into it today.

I think one of the reasons this comes up so much is because of how I talk about guests. Honestly, most often the question is really guests or no guests. I'm like, “Wow, there's like options inside of each of those,” but for a lot of our clients that come in for intensives and in the mastermind, they've been doing maybe a guest-only, if not guest-only, then the occasional solo episode and I really encourage them to do more solo episodes, and we'll talk about why today.

But the biggest thing I want to address today and the thing that sort of comes up next in those conversations most often is “Okay, do I need to announce that? How do I make that change?” It really, really is much less effort than you think it's going to be. That's what we're going to dig into today.

Speaking of the Roundtable, though, we have another one coming up and I wanted to invite you. I've got some great questions already for this one. There's going to be a really good conversation. If you haven't yet reserved your seat and submitted your question to our completely free roundtable, make sure you do that.

Come get your questions answered by me. Come have a great conversation with other podcasters. There are a ton of great networking opportunities here, and quite frankly, time with me. Who could pass that up? I know you can't. Head on over to uncommonlymore.com/roundtable to reserve your seat.

In that confirmation email, you'll get a link to submit your question. Make sure you do that as well. I'm excited and I cannot wait to see you there. With that, let's start by taking a step back. Before I get on the soapbox, I want to break down three of the most common formats for the kind of podcasts we create, the podcasts that we're using to support business that's the marketing engine of our business. When we're talking about using our podcasts to generate, educate, and convert right-fit clients, these are the kinds of episodes that most frequently we're running.

A guest format where we've got interviews, solo episodes where it's just us like the show usually is, and the other option that comes up a lot is roundtable discussions. I wanted to bring this one in because there are some pros and cons here. It is one that comes up a lot. I like it. I think it can be done well. But there are some caveats. I want to talk about those three format types.

Let's first just break down each of these and talk about some of the pros and cons and then we'll get into sort of making changes or using them together. I want to first silo them out. Let's first start by talking about interviews. When I'm talking about interviews, I'm talking about you and one other guest.

Asterisk already that one other guest might be two people if you're bringing in a couple of business partners or something like that, but generally speaking, it's going to be you one-on-one with someone else. Occasionally, it'll be an expert. It might be a client for a case study. It might be a colleague, whatever it is, it's you and it's one other person, and it is an interview format.

It is a conversation. It is a you asking questions, them answering questions, and then maybe a little chat about the answer. Returning to the beginning of the loop, you ask a question, they answer a question, some conversation around said question. Really, really common format.

We've talked a lot about how you can be using guests effectively in your show on this show. Make sure you check out those episodes if you haven't. But I find that most often, this is what I'm going to call lovingly the lazy choice, and here's why I'm calling it the lazy choice because it is most frequently hosts really leaning on their guests to provide value for their audience.

When we talk about a show where we're trying to generate, educate, and convert right-fit clients, we really take ourselves out of the center ring of our circus. We relegate ourselves to a sideshow instead of really taking the reins as the ring leader and positioning ourselves as the expert even in interviewing another expert.

More often than not, this is recommended to podcasters as a way to “grow” their audience. You can't see me but I was heavy, heavy on the air quotes there. I think you heard it in my voice. I despise this as a growth tactic mostly because it's nonsense. It's entirely dependent on the goodwill of your guest and the interest of their audience in sharing something they have very likely already heard either on your guest's podcast, in their content, or in other interviews your guest has shared.

Very rarely, not never, but very rarely will you run into an instance where you have guests on your show, and then your show blows up because all of these listeners who were in your guest's audience came running to you and were like, “I can't stop listening.” It's just infrequent. It just doesn't happen very often. Is it impossible? No. But it is certainly not the strongest growth tactic you can be taking in your show.

What I find it does is it gives you permission to avoid far more effective growth measures, growth tools that maybe take more effort and that's really what it comes down to. There are, again, pros and cons to every one of these options. Let's take these slightly out of order because in that same vein is roundtable discussions.

This is one that has come up more and more recently with clients. We did a version of this kind of more clip show style for a series for a client recently. I really like these because it allows you to bring in more than one voice. It allows you to provide different expertise.

I think when you have these multiple voices and you're not just highlighting one expert, it can be a little easier to keep yourself in that ringleader spot, keep you sort of center of the circus, and directing traffic, directing the flow of the conversation, and allowing your expertise to be the throughline in that conversation.

With that said, the thing we have to remember with roundtable discussions is all the same things are true, having more guests on your show will not mean you get even more listeners because you have even more people sharing the episode. But again, it frequently gets thought of as a way to just get more people tricked into sharing your content.

Specifically when you're talking about audio-only, I think you get a little more leeway when you're talking about videos and I have the option to attach a voice and a face, but especially when you're talking about audio-only podcasts, when you start to have two, three, four, or six similar-sounding voices, it's going to be difficult for the listener to discern who is who.

If you have three female-identifying voices who all have a very similar tone, it's going to be really hard for your listener to discern who's A, who's B, and who’s C. If you've got four deeper, more traditionally male-sounding voices, again, you're going to run into an instance where personality is going to be key. You're going to have to sort of find your distinctions so that the listener can identify “Who am I listening to now? Who is talking now?” Because again, we don't want to confuse them. That's what can happen when we have too many different voices.

The best way to deal with this, the best way to manage this is to keep those numbers manageable. I worry a lot less when it's two or three. For the most part, our ears can discern that many, but that's really where I'm trying to keep it. Two, three, maybe four.

When we get into the neighborhood of sometimes four, but definitely five and six, especially similarly-sounding voices are going to put a lot more effort on the listener to discern who is who, which again, can become especially detrimental when we talk about wanting to really position you centerstage, you as the traffic cop, you as the ringleader, whatever of my many mixed metaphors and cliches we have salted across, we have decorated this episode with, whatever it is, I want to make sure you're there and when you have too many voices, that gets drowned out.

That's one of the reasons I really love more of a clip-show format. Instead of having three people join you, do a roundtable, and record it straight through, often what we'll do is we'll have our host record one-on-one with each of the three people from the roundtable. We will then audit that, clip everything together, oftentimes, that's when we'll go in and we'll break out “Here's where we want to have the host bridge some things,” the host will go in and then record those and then we'll clip everything together.

That roundtable discussion becomes much more clip-show like but it makes it really easy for our host, our expert to be at the center and be moving us through a cohesive conversation. We eliminate people talking over each other. We eliminate people getting cut off. We eliminate tangents that make us completely lose track of our center point, and at every instance, we reposition and reintroduce our host as the expert, as the ringleader.

Speaking of keeping our host centered as the expert, centered as the ringleader, this is where we get into solo episodes. If you are using your show to generate, educate, and convert right-fit clients, if your goal is to move people from your podcast into working with you into your services and your coaching packages, buying your courses, whatever that thing might be, you have to at least occasionally have solo episodes because these are your moments to connect with the listener directly.

This is the moment where you and I sit in your car and drive home from dropping your dog off at doggy daycare. This is where we run the back trails behind your neighborhood together. This is where we get the kids through karate together. Whatever the thing is, it's you and me, babe.

It's you and I sitting here working through this stuff together, and that happens because of solo episodes. It becomes a much more inclusive feeling thing which is imperative when we're talking about building trust, especially for those of us who are selling long-term services.

I work with clients. I've got a client I've been working with for 10 years. I've had clients I've been working with for eight years. Actually, we just bumped her to nine, it's a new year. I’ve got clients we've been working with for five-plus years. I have a client I’ve been working with for a couple of months as well. They've signed with us recently but that comes from building a relationship.

That relationship, even with the clients who signed with me in the last year, for many of them started here, started on dog walks, started on trail runs, I'm trying to think of all the wonderful places I've been with the listeners, but we've done some cool things. We spent a lot of time on airplanes together. We spent a lot of time in cars together. We spent a lot of time walking the dog together. We've spent a lot of time together even before we started working together.

That feeling, that connection comes from solo episodes. It comes from me sitting here talking to you and telling you what you need to know to make decisions to move forward, to make shifts, to make changes. Now, producing, because there are pros and cons to everyone, producing solo episodes, recording solo episodes can feel like a much, much, much heavier lift.

Because guess what? Although you and I spend a lot of time together doing fun things and wildly monotonous things like washing dishes, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house, I don't know why I had three cleaning things as monotonous, but this really kind of tells you how I feel about it, whatever the case may be, in my experience of it, it's me sitting alone in my office. That's what it is.

It's me sitting here batching three, four, or five, very occasionally, six episodes at a time trying to get things done or trying to get one episode done because I need to get it done and I owe it to the team. It's not always batched, sometimes it's just the slog of getting this episode done. We all live there. I'm not any less human than you.

But nonetheless, it's wildly solo. It's wildly alone. It's not particularly infrequent. Most of my episodes are this way. I'd say if we put out 45 new episodes a year, which is I think what we did last year, 40 of them were probably solo, 43 of them, you know, I had a handful of guests in the last 12 months because that's not the format of the show so it's a lot of me spending time here talking to myself, waiting for you to talk back to me, that can be a lift.

You have to prepare yourself for that. You have to set yourself up for success. That's why we talk about strategic planning. That's why we talk about batching. I haven't talked a ton about but I certainly could, some of the energy stuff I do around this. If that's interesting, let me know and I'll talk more about it.

It's not particularly a [inaudible], it's more adrenaline, but I'm happy to talk about it but there are things that I have to do to get myself up to do this. Again, pros and cons of each, it can also get really monotonous to be listening to one voice for 45 minutes, which is why I don't do 45-minute episodes very often, which is why I try and keep these somewhat brief because it can get monotonous. Again, there are pros and cons.

On the pro side though, we are building a bond, baby. You and I, ride or die. We are in this talking through this, thinking through this stuff together. When we hop into a call for your Podcast Strategy Intensive, you join us in the Profitable Podcaster Mastermind, or you hire the team to do production, we come together every quarter for our quarterly strategy calls, it feels familiar, it falls in.

It's easier for you to share with me the things I need to know to actually serve and support you. We don't have that weird beginning stuff. We talked about this a little bit last week in the last episode when we talked about attract versus nurture. This has nurtured you into trust so that once it converts you, once you are like, “Yep, now's the right time for me. I'm ready to take the step forward,” you are ready. You're in. It's not two months of “Get to know me and then I'll trust you with this thing I'm afraid of.” It's “Hey, here are the things I'm considering that I am afraid sounds dumb. Can you tell me the answer?”

It takes vulnerability to share what we feel might be a dumb idea, and the time we spent together makes that shorter, it briefens up. We're going to pretend that’s a real word. It makes that period of time where you're trying to decide how much you can share with the expert you've just hired a little shorter.

Now, we've covered the formats thoroughly. Let's talk about making changes, making a shift. Maybe you for 20, 50, or 100 episodes have had an interview-based show. You, one other guest, in and out every week, how do you start introducing solo episodes? Will your audience be bored? How do you start introducing roundtable discussions? Do you need to make an announcement so people know that? No.

Do you want to know how you make a change? You do it. If it makes sense for your audience to know why you're making the change in the course or in the context of the episode, make that clear why this episode is different, why this episode needed to be in this format.

A lot of times those first solo episodes we do with clients are around things that maybe has been coming up with their clients quite a bit and they're like, “We need to address this soon. Possibly now, because it's coming up again and again and again, over and over and over. There's gotta be a change.” I'm like, “Cool. Talk about that on the show. Let's start doing that pre-client education. Let's start talking to them now so that when you get in a relationship, when you get into work with them, they've already got that context.”

But that kind of stuff is often easier to take in as a solo. The other sort of on-ramp into solo episodes where we do share the context of “Hey, this episode's going to sound a little different” is taking a conversation that started in an interview and expanding on it.

If you have this really popular interview, maybe it's one of your most popular episodes and something came up in the episode, it's really directly tied to your expertise, but you didn't dig in too much because you had a guest, do a solo episode, dive in deeper. Call back and say, “Hey, I had this interview with Jill. It was a great conversation. In the course of that conversation, this came up and I wanted to sit together with you one-on-one and really talk about that today,” then go into the episodes.

We've highlighted that this episode is different but we didn't need a formal campaign for announcing this change. By the way, introducing a different format episode does not mean your overall show format has to change. My show is a solo show. The format of my show is weekly solo episodes. However, I occasionally include a guest.

That doesn't mean the show is not solo. It doesn't mean that it’s suddenly now an interview show. If we were to do a roundtable show, it wouldn't suddenly mean it was a roundtable show now. No, we did an episode of that. And that's allowed, and quite frankly, encouraged because if you have been an interview show, and then you decide, “I'm going to make this massive announcement that we are doing only solo episodes,” and then you get a really good guest opportunity, you're going to feel pulled to say, “I can't do that because I already told them my show is solo now.”

No. Your show is committed to being one thing and that is a place that delivers on the promise it made. As long as you're delivering on your podcast’s promise, it doesn't really matter the format of each individual episode. When you can embrace that, it will get a lot more comfortable for you to try on these other formats and play with them and see how you can use all of them, or some of them together to better engage and educate your audience.

This is ultimately where we end up with most of our clients in Podcast Strategy Intensives where it's like, “Cool, we've just kind of got a mix now.” Every couple of weeks, there's a guest that comes in because you want to introduce something and then there's a couple of episodes solo where you really evolve that conversation further.

Or more like my format when you're in a season where you're opening the doors for a program or you have a particularly great case study to share for one of your evergreen offers, you go in and you talk to those clients and you share that case study because it makes sense in the context of where you are in the season of business you're in.

But what I want you to look at here is now we're making format decisions based on strategy and not as a tactic to achieve something. We're now using the format of the show to best execute on what they need to know now to make that decision. When we're talking about strategy in the context of how we talk about it with our clients, what are we selling? Who are we selling it to? How are we selling it to them?

Great, what do they need to know now to make their next step? Great. What is the best way to deliver that information? That's the format question. Now it becomes less about what's the tactic, the tool, or the magic button I push to get my outcome and it becomes a strategic backtracking from your goal to identify your right tactic. That's the shift that's really important. That's the point.

That's the thing that's going to consistently get you where you want to go over and over and over again. This is the work we do on Podcast Strategy Intensives. This is the work I would love to do with you in a Podcast Strategy Intensive so make sure you head over to uncommonlymore.com/intensive and book a call so that we can talk about if it's the right fit for you, if now is the right time for you, and get you booked into my calendar so that we can sit down and do this work for you. Alright? With all of that, I will see you right back here next week.

Thanks so much for listening to this show. Remember that content consumption does not make changes, so commit to doing something from today's episode. Maybe it's taking action on what we talked about. Maybe it's reaching out to me and learning more about Podcast Strategy Intensives or what podcast production looks like with our team. All of that is over at uncommonlymore.com.

If you haven't yet signed up for The Podcast Newsroom, I want to remind you that is a great next step. If you're not really sure what comes next, hang out over there. Get those exclusive private episodes. That's over at podcastnewsroom.com. The last favor I will ask, because social proof is endlessly important for sure, is to leave a rating and review for the show. If you go to ratethispodcast.com/more, that's the easiest way to do it. But I would love to hear what you thought of the show, what you think of the show, and if the show has been helpful for you. I can't wait to chat with you. This is just the start of the conversation. Reach out so we can keep it going. Talk soon.

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