Podcasts are one of the fastest-growing forms of media right now, if not the fastest. People love them for a number of reasons. For one, podcasts are easy to listen to. No matter where you are, you can plugin for a podcast. They make commutes better, workouts more exciting, and chores around the house more than bearable. They are also usually free; it doesn’t get much better than that. Another great thing about podcasts and all the types of podcasts is that you can choose from almost any topic and format to listen to. With all the different types of podcasts, whether you like the serial format or stand-alone, conversational or interview podcasts or simply informative and education, pick a topic and you can find a podcast that you’ll love.
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This post has been updated in August 2021.
The Rising Success of Podcasts
Regardless of all of the types of podcasts, this medium as a whole is fast growing. An article on The New York Times reports that in 2019, more than half the people in the United States have listened to a podcast, and nearly one out of three people listened to at least one podcast every month. In 2018, it was closer to one in four.
This same article shares that two groups of listeners that are quickly growing are the older and the younger generations. There was a rise in listenership from the above 55 crowd as well as kids ages 12-14. This shows the large appeal and wide range of podcasts.
Advertisers are finding happy homes with podcasts. It’s a great way to get the word out for a product and service with the help of a well-loved host. When a host refers a product, usually with a discount, his or her listeners are quick to take a look and purchase. This opens up a whole new form of advertising. It also does not add the disruption of commercials that happens in other media because the host is still the one sharing information. That could also have an effect on the continued success of podcasts and podcast advertising.
The Main Types of Podcasts
There are a number of reasons for the appeal that podcasts have, and one is the different formats and types of podcasts that are available. Just like there is a topic for everyone, there is a type of podcast for everyone. Some people may enjoy the serial type while others like an interview format. Here are the main types of podcasts according to ConvertKit.com:
Interviews – This may be the original form of podcasts, and it probably stems from interview shows on public radio like Fresh Air (which is also a popular podcast). In these types of podcasts, the host will interview people who may be experts in a given field or someone with real-life experience. It could be an in-studio interview or the guest interviewee calls in. Topics run the gamut, from the paranormal to the latest styles to gardening trends. Even though the guests will change from show to show, the host and topic niche will remain the same.
Conversation Format – These types of podcasts are fun to listen to, and a strong bond is often formed between the hosts and listeners. Again, these podcasts can cover any topic, from travel to books to breakups, and usually, there are two or three hosts. Like the interview podcasts, there is usually a topic the hosts stay in tune with, but each show will take on a different facet of it. Successful hosts have the art of banter with a strong dynamic together. A good example is The Box of Oddities where a married couple with a great dynamic shares stories of strange things they read about. When you listen to this type of podcast, it’s like sitting down for coffee (or something stronger) with your friends.
Educational Podcasts – This type of podcast is a bit similar to the conversation podcasts, but are usually more serious and focused with a clear takeaway. There may be one host or two or three. Some popular educational podcasts are Hardcore History, The Memory Palace, The College Info Geek Podcast, and Brain Science. Some people enjoy listening to these in order, but usually, it is not necessary as each episode can stand alone. A perk is you can listen to whatever interests you without worrying about a chronology.
True Story Podcasts – This is where many people fall in love with podcasts; these are the ones listeners love to binge. True crime podcasts are huge right now, but there are more types than just crime. Usually, one host shares the episodes which are often in a serial format – hence the addiction. Some of these podcasts are told in stand-alone format, and that has its own charm as well. Serial and S-Town are forerunners in this podcast genre.
More Types of Podcasts
There are a few more, less mainstream types of podcasts worthy of a mention.
One of these is the hybrid podcast. This type of podcast incorporates hosts and interviews so it’s a combination of the interview and conversation podcast.
Another type is repurposed content. The material isn’t new, it’s just told in a new way. Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me is a notable example.
Some podcasts have spin-offs. A good example of this is Campfire which came from Jim Harold’s Paranormal Podcast. These two podcasts are related content with the same host, but enough content is available to make two different podcasts.
Podcasts also have varied formats. Some are short, ranging from 20 to 30 minutes, while others have episodes that last almost two hours. Some podcast series are all stand-alone, some are in chronological order and some are mostly stand alone with a few two or three-part episodes.
So What Makes a Successful Podcast
With all the different types of podcasts, what makes a successful one? Sure, it looks like if the topic is good in this already great format than the podcast will be successful. But that isn’t always the case. A lot depends on a lot of things. Learn.g2.com shares some valuable information regarding this, and some criteria that makes a successful podcast are:
- Focus on a central idea
- Play to an audience
- Regular schedules
- Show structure
Regardless of the type of podcast, without these things, success will be hard to come by. People like to listen to a show that has a central idea; that’s what brought them there in the first place. Another key is that a show needs to connect to an audience. No matter how good it is, if the audience doesn’t feel it, they won’t be back. Knowing what to expect is important for the audience, too, and regular schedules and structure help with that. And last but far from least is authenticity. Seeing the hosts as friends and regular people makes that connection. Listeners want to relate and be immersed – authenticity helps them do that.
Hosts are integral in all of these factors. The host can make or break a podcast. People often tune into a podcast, excited for its content, but are turned off by the host and never tune back in. On the other hand, the host is often more compelling than the content and keeps listeners coming back. The more authentic a host can be, the more he or she will appeal to the audience. This also leads to successful sponsorship and advertising.
Advertising in Podcasts
With the rise of podcasts, it makes sense that podcast advertising is a smart way to market. Since we know that the audience forms bonds with their hosts, when hosts share products or services, the audience listens. And that is how podcast advertising works, regardless of the types of podcasts.
In podcast advertising, the host usually is the one to talk about the product. For instance, Native deodorant is a big podcast advertiser. The host will take a break from the podcast content and talk about Native deodorant. They may share why they love it, an experience with it, and then offer a discount code while they tell the audience where to purchase it. It all goes back to that authenticity that needs to be present in all types of podcasts. Because the bond is already there with the host, when they speak openly about a product, the listener trusts them. Often a host won’t endorse a product or service he or she doesn’t believe in.
Podcast advertising is also fairly affordable depending on the podcast, and that means there is usually a price point for anyone looking to advertise. Even if you can’t work with some of the top podcasts, there are probably others in your price range. Here are some more valuable tips about podcast advertising and why it is so successful right now.
Types of Podcasts and Advertising to the Audience
This is where it can tricky. The audience is not always cut and dried to the podcast genre. Podcast listeners often have broad interests. An article from Hubspot shares that:
It’s wise not to adhere too strictly to a category. Don’t assume that comedy audiences aren’t also entrepreneurs or that listeners to a sports podcast aren’t interested in a comedy special. You may be surprised at how broad and eclectic your audience tastes and needs are.
So just because someone listens to certain types of podcasts, it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in other things as well. In fact, sometimes the sponsored advertising can become a fun part of the show that listeners look forward to hearing. It’s similar to a friend recommending something new they found and love.
Whether you are a listener or an advertiser, the world of podcasting is huge and still growing. Maybe you’re neither of these but looking to start your own podcast. Whichever, it’s important to understand the different types of podcasts, who is listening, and what podcast advertising is all about. It’s a new exciting genre that continues to get bigger with a wider, more varied audience.
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