Track 2: Scripting, talking, telling

| February 11, 2020 | | Reading time: 6 Minutes

Podcast Serie Teil2

At first glance, all pod­casts look ex­actly alike: a play button on your mobile phone or com­puter. But be­hind lies a great variety of content that radio broad­casting can only dream to achieve. Creative use of formats has be­come the main trade­mark of pod­casting. And caught our at­tention in the second part of our series.

The clock radio from the movie Groundhog Day became legendary at this point. Every morning it plays I got you babe by Sonny and Cher. A catchy song, but which quickly starts to drive Bill Murray, who is stuck in a timeloop, crazy in his morning routine. Understandable, because although the day begins with radio or headphones for many, nobody wants to listen to the same thing over and over. 

In the first part of our series we presented podcasts as a big game changer to the media landscape. Now we want to highlight what actually made podcasting huge in the first place: the strength and variety of formats and what content you can deliver by using them creatively. Because rigid structure and repetition lead to fatigue in media consumption as well as in Murray’s morning routine. But differently to movies we do not have to listen to the same song every morning…

Podcast formats: Find the perfect fit

Only one thing is settled with a podcast right from the start: it is all about audio content. So far so obvious. But everything above is a conceptual decision. Because the decision, which content is to be presented in which way is a fundamental issue and lays the groundwork for the future quality of the podcast. Two things everyone should be considering who wants to set up a podcast: 

Form follows function 

This guiding principle, which is often spoken of in a context of industrial design and architecture, has been adopted to other areas. In our context it means the following: the format of podcasts serves the purpose of the podcast. What purpose means exactly in this case, can have very individual answers, if solely information, entertainment, interaction with audiences or subscriptions to a blog. The way you choose to communicate has to be adapted to the goal. For example, a news update regarding events of one line of business can be very confusing if it’s done by three persons. A quick news flash by one person should be enough. Because every format sets its own focus and makes content to be  either delivered easier or more complicated. But if you only care for the final result, you’ll fail to keep an eye on something very important: 

Form and content

While examining modern art and literature, this pair of words is always to be taken care of. It also seems to bring back endless hours of english class, but the concept is not hard to grasp at all. Because in every good piece of art the unity of form and creative content is an important thing. For example: Even when covering a topic in a podcast all by yourself can shed light on many different aspects, it is worth considering if a talk format wouldn’t do the same job a lot easier. A story never tells itself only by its content, its form always adds meaning, regardless if you intend to do so or not. And next to the format, say talk or radio drama, the situation of podcasting itself plays a very important role. The huge plus side of podcasts is their embedding in daily life. Why not take this into consideration during the conception? 

The question which format you use for your podcast can’t be answered only by looking at “What’s trending?” and “What has always been working?”. Rather content and format have to form a perfect symbiotic relationship. Or even better: sound alike in perfect harmony.  

Podcast formats. An overview

We now introduce the top 5 of the most interesting and most common podcast formats. Where are their strengths and weaknesses? To whom are they talking? And how do I accomplish the best setting for interaction? 


The DailyYou can’t miss The Daily. The product of the NYT not only is the most successful news podcast until this day, but also set the standard for all successors. And in doing so, earned two million listeners per day. 

Why do I reach my target audience? 

Nobody either has the time nor discipline to sit down in front of a TV screen or radio anymore. Rather than continuity and routine, constant accessibility and flexibility is what matters now. But not only a recap of daily news around the world can do the job: a weekly update on news about a specific line of business can be the most promising for the target audience. Just because the environment is specific, topicality can still play a major role.

  • Short and concise: News casts don’t need a lot of time for their content and make podcasts easier to consume. Accessibility increases, too. 
  • Addictive: Even though consuming news has become more flexible, topicality feeds of consistency. Once trust is built up, people rely on your information. 
  • “Less” work: News casts tend to be less time expensive, due to the fact you need less time to find topics and to edit the content. But still you should not underestimate the work. 

Talk it out!

Ganz schön krank, Leute!Not a plain commercial, just good content. For their podcast Ganz schön krank, Leute, the DAK offers space for all different kinds of people talking about health and illness. Various topics like burnout and cancer are being discussed as well as unexpected paternity. Whether well known or unfamiliar faces, the only thing that counts is personality and good topics.

Why do I reach my target audience? 

Dialogue as a format relies on expertise, opinions and experiences. Based on intense preparation good conversations can be held even with people unexperienced in talking in a microphone. And this can add a pinch of authenticity as well. Additionally, a guest can help popularizing a podcast.

  • Authentic and flexible: The personality of the guests grants every show and topic something characteristic. 
  • Dense: By inviting experts even complex topics can be handled with. 
  • Dynamic: Listening to the flow of a conversation instead of only one voice often is more pleasant. 

Entertaining-conversational: yet a classic

Deutsche BahnFor its information portal inside.bahn, Deutsche Bahn took on board the podcasters of Gästeliste Geisterbahn. They were allowed to chat in their usual relaxed tone about the reasons for train cancellations, economy prices and the ICE-WiFi.

Why do I reach my target audience? 

In his book „Podcasts in der Unternehmenskommunikation” author and media accountant Stephan Schreyer also analyzes podcast formats. He finds that most podcasts work with well known persons who already have media expertise. Podcasts often tend to be an “extension of the person or brand through a media offer”. An entertaining-conversational podcast presents a perfect example for this statement, here the moderators are the centre of the attention and hereby create a special atmosphere. Every style and topic is fine, but most importantly it has to be entertaining and sometimes instructive. 

  • Casual: With the right people the format is both informative and entertaining, the perfect combination for success with a podcast, if you trust the statistics. 
  • Advertising: If the participants have been popular before, they attract bigger attention to the show. 
  • Flexible: Sections and main points of a podcast can be developed more creatively due to the freedom of the format. 

Theme cast

Hackable?Producer of antivirus software and hardware McAfee first provides a good deal of uncertainty in their podcast: they let hackers penetrate computers and systems in order to draw attention to potential cyber vulnerabilities. 

Why do I reach my target audience? 

Becoming an expert never has been that easy! While your library card is collecting dust in a hidden corner, you can easily grab your smartphone to learn something new. In the media genre podcast, there has been a various offer of high quality content building up over the last years. Oftentimes it’s in the form of dialogues, short sound bits and news updates. In an increasingly competitive market, a good topic alone can become an USP. So be bold and jump right into the topic! 

  • Nerdy: Here, special knowledge and depth in content is being rewarded.
  • Special: If only one show can deliver this special content, it makes it indispensable on the information market.
  • Trendy: If topic and cast work out fine together, it can result in a trend nobody ever would have predicted then.


Backup Sag mir, wer ich binBackup plays in a completely engineered future and quickly discovers that it could end in dystopia. The main character Klara has to quickly come to terms with reality and fiction of artificial intelligence. The german Lufthansa signed responsible for this media piece, but never appears once. 

  • Creative: More voices, a free developing plot and good sound design break free of the restrictions of journalistic genres. 
  • Immersive: Rarely any podcast format generates more involvement than fiction. 
  • Courageous: The format is far from reaching its limits and offers fearless people the ultimate growth potential.

The relevance of deciding for a format

The format is like the corset of content. While working on the concept of a podcast, it is therefore highly important to adjust structure and content consequently to each other. But additionally adjusting to the audience is crucial if you want to spread your podcast. Some hints on how to define a target audience via personas you can find here. The question is: Is my audience primarily interested in content density, so that I have to pay less attention to progressive presentation? Or is the focus on entertainment and do I aim more for atmosphere and good association? This guide should have answered the most important questions. And there is one last tip:

Don’t listen to audio formats! 

Formats are made to break out of them, boundaries are drawn to cross them. The medium podcast is still relatively young and has only become a mass success through new ideas. Podcast shows are already by definition a genre mix, with the best elements of radio play, radio, TV and journalism. And the boundaries of podcast formats are also fluid. Is that why all this format definition was in vain? No, of course not. Because in order to test the limits, you have to know the basics. Success only comes to those who are inspired. And all ideas are needed for the most varied soundtrack of everyday life. Because every day listening to  I got you babe wouldn't just get on Bill Murray's nerves. 

In our third track we will sit down with a real podcast expert to ask him some questions about his main business.



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