Browsing podcast genres is like spending time in a library, so many categories to choose from. Podcast categories cover pretty much everything out there – from religion to crime to baking to well, you name it, the genre is there.
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This post was updated in April 2021
What is a Podcast Genre?
Just like in literature, genres are categories of groups of similar works. As FutureLearn.com shares, genres group a collection of works together into categories. These categories are usually based on shared themes such as history, true crime, comedy. Most people stay within a few genres. Again, like literature, we all have our favorites. Some people may enjoy true crime, psychology, and history. Others may bounce around from science to technology to robotics. But then they may like to throw in a podcast covering baking as well. So while most people have preferred podcast categories, that will never exclude them from listing to a completely different genre.
Genres are not only important for those producing podcasts, but also for those listening. When you know what you’re producing, you stay on track. You can also market in the right category if you have a predetermined genre. Of course, podcast genres often overlap. You can have a relationship/comedy podcast or one that could fall into both the music and history categories. Usually, though, when cataloging and listing your podcast, you pick the main category.
For listeners, it helps them find your podcast. They can search by genre and uncover numbers of new podcasts. They can also listen to one podcast and hear an ad for a similar podcast in the same genre. Hosts may interview other hosts in the same field, and that’s a great way to learn of new shows. Many genres promote one another, and there is plenty of overlap.
Some of the Most Popular Genres and Examples of Their Podcasts
Depending on where you look, you may get different stats on what the top genres are and in what order. But usually, you’ll see similar top genres on any list. According to Musicoopmph.com, the top five podcast genres are society and culture, business, comedy, news and politics, and health. These are also quite broad categories so many podcasts could fit into more than one of these, along with others not listed. Other popular genres are music, religion, sports, true crime, and TV and film. As you can see, there is overlap, for instance, true crime and TV and Film can both fall into society and culture. They are a kind of a sub-genre of society and culture, like football would be to sports.
Society and culture
This is a big category; it can encompass a wide variety of podcasts covering everything from fashion to movies to food and travel. Here are some of the biggies in society and culture:
The TED Interview – In this podcast, the host interviews some of the world’s most interesting and innovative people and shares the powerful ideas they have. Each segment is a stand-alone episode.
The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe- Mike Rowe takes a new twist on storytelling as he shares “short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span.” (iHeartRadio.com) This another podcast featuring stand-alone episodes.
S-Town – This podcast could also fall under the crime genre as it is a serial of a possible murder, another death, and a lot of mystery. This podcast is made up of chapters (episodes) that run in a specific order.
Two popular business podcasts are The Dave Ramsey Show and Spectacular Failures. While the first of these is a practical, applicable, informative show on managing a budget and living financially smart, the latter is a show featuring some of the biggest business failures out there. They both pertain to the world of business.
Many podcasts might fall into this category along with another one. Podcast hosts are pretty witty and sometimes their shows turn into comedies unintended. For instance, NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me is a game show format featuring hosts and guests, plus callers from around the country. It could be considered entertainment or society and culture. It’s a good example of a podcast with overlapping genres.
News and Politics
Many of the shows here grew from already present news shows, like Meet the Press and The Sean Hannity Show. Some got their start on TV, others on radio. And then, of course, there are the shows that were born as podcasts.
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations – This podcast consists of Oprah’s interviews with thought leaders and influential people. Its intent is to bring the listener closer to a happy, fulfilling, spiritual, and beautiful life.
The Dr. Oz Podcast – In this podcast, Dr. Oz shares health secrets and wellness tips through interviews with well-known professionals in the health and wellness field.
What About Formats of Podcasts?
Any genre of podcast can come in any format. Maybe you’re not sure what format would be best for a podcast in the making. It all depends on the vibe you want to send out and how you work best for yourself and your audience. There are a few formats to consider, and let’s first look at serial versus single episodes.
A serial podcast will have consecutive episodes that continue to tell the same story. Usually, these are narrated by a host and include snippets from other sources, like interviews or sound bites. Think Serial, perhaps the most groundbreaking podcasts in the crime genre. Serial formats are great for keeping a listener engaged in the podcast. However, be careful not to draw the story out too much. You could lose listener interest. There is an art to long storytelling, and Creative Live shares some tips on doing this successfully.
One key is inspiring trust in the listener. An authoritative, but genuine, voice can do this. This is something that can be achieved by the single host who the listener gets to know through the podcast. Another tip is that there is a sweet spot to hit that reaches the perfect place of engagement, meandering storytelling, creating a picture and real characters, moving the story along, and leaving listeners ready for the next installment.
A single episode podcast is another format, and this can be told by one host, in an interview style, or with a group of hosts. Lore is a good example of the single host and single episode podcast genre. The host shares a tale in each show that can stand alone. His storytelling ability is spot on, and his talent pulls listeners in.
Gossipmongers is an example of a podcast with a multiple host format. Dynamics have to work together, and when they do, it’s like magic. Selfhelpless is another example where the hosts just have that perfect vibe together to make you want more.
Some listeners prefer the single format show because then they can “pop in” and not feel committed to the show. Many people like this when they listen to multiple podcasts. They can get a few different podcast genres in at a time listening this way.
Some Niche Genres of Podcasts
We’ve talked about the big genres of podcasts, from business to sports to crime, but what about those niche podcasts. This article shares some top podcasts by freelancers that are worth a listen. Another great list of niche podcast genres is at Wil Williams Reviews and it includes genres like theme parks, Halloween, and linguistics and grammar.
As we mentioned, there is virtually a podcast for everyone. Some genres are huge, like food and society and culture. Others are smaller, like Valentine’s Day, but it’s still out there. And you can have your pick of shows within even the smaller genres.
Regardless of the podcast genre and format, there are certain things like focus, authenticity, and consistency that can make a podcast successful. Check out this article for more on this.
Advertising on Podcasts
Finding the right podcast for advertisers can be a challenge. When an advertiser is looking to market on a show, it’s important to find one where the audience matches. The audience of the podcast needs to be in line with the marketing product or service. Not every podcast is an option for every advertiser. Sure, some products, like socks, alarm systems, and deodorant are pretty neutral and do have a broad appeal, but other products may be more specific.
Something like dog training or dog toys may not be so universal. But if it’s advertised on a dog training or other dog-related podcast, the target audience is already there. It may not be as effective to advertise more specific products and services on more general podcasts.
Marketers and podcasters should both be aware of the people who are listening when considering marketing. For the podcaster, a sponsor/advertising source can be a huge plus, but it does need to have some appeal to the show itself and the listeners. As for marketers, they should look for a podcast where there is a shared demographic and similar interests. Then it’s a win-win for both sides.
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To Sum Up Podcast Genres
The podcast medium keeps growing. In fact, it’s one of the fastest-growing media formats right now. People love their podcasts. With this growth comes more and more genres of podcasts Whatever you want is out there. But that shouldn’t stop new podcasts even within big genres. A good podcast will have something unique to offer, whether it’s the host’s personality and vibe or the specific story or subject it’s taking on. You could create an entire series on apples under the food podcast genre and people will listen as long as it’s engaging.
The world is your oyster when it comes to podcasts. If you can imagine it, you can produce it. One key takeaway for success, make sure you love the topic and are invested in it. Your listeners will see this connection and believe in it. Don’t’ take on a subject just because you think it’s popular. Do something you love, be yourself, and you can do it!