What Podcast Formats Do the Most Popular Shows Use?

Choosing the optimal format for your podcast is a pretty important decision. After all, it’ll impact how your show sounds, how you’ll record – even what type of gear and software you’ll need.

And, while experimenting with different formats is usually the best way to find the right fit, learning from how other podcasters are finding success is helpful too. 

So, I did a bit of digging to find some solid evidence around the following question: What format is most common amongst the most popular podcasts in the US and UK right now? 

Here’s what I found out, plus what you can learn from this as a podcaster. 

How to Find Out the ‘Most Successful’ Podcast Format

To find out which format the most successful podcasts are currently using, I turned to Edison’s podcast rankers.

There’s a reason I bee-lined for Edison’s ranker rather than any of the podcast charts. Edison’s ranker is the only podcast measurement service that bases its results on real, in-depth podcast listening stats. This makes its ranker much more reliable than podcast charts, which are gameable as they rely too heavily on download numbers.

To speed up some of the manual work, I turned to ChatGPT. I added both Edison’s top 50 in the US and top 25 in the UK for Q2 of 2023 and asked the bot to combine the list, removing any duplicates. This allowed me to create a combined list of the most popular podcast shows in the UK and US.

Then, I took the combined list and asked ChatGPT the following prompt:

Using data you can find on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts and Spotify podcasts, what format is the most common among the podcasts in this list? (choose from solo show, co-hosted, interview format)

ChatGPT then reproduced the list, indicating which format each show was in. This meant I could easily scan through the list to confirm that the categorizations were all correct. It was kind of mindblowing to find the bot got all the formats right (are we ever going to get bored of being mindblown by what ChatGPT can do?). 

This was the final result:

Which Formats Do the Most Popular Podcasts Use?

According to the data, the format used by the most popular podcasters in the US and UK in 2023 is co-hosted shows. This is followed quickly by solo shows

What’s really interesting about this result is that it reflects a lot of the research we’ve been doing with independent podcasters, too. 

What Formats Do IndiePodders Use?

Last year, we surveyed 1,500 aspiring podcasters and found that almost half (43%) were planning to fly solo with their podcast

But in our Indiepod Census – which surveyed experienced independent podcasters – we learned that co-hosted shows have the most longevity. So while solo shows were the most popular format amongst new starters, the podcasts that had lasted the longest (or at least had totted up the most episodes) were co-hosted podcasts. 

So, in this sense, the ‘most successful’ shows were co-hosted, even though solo shows were the most popular choice.

What Can Podcasters Learn From This Data?

There are a few things we can learn from this data, and this research more generally.

No One Format Will Guarantee Success

For one thing, this reminds us that the most popular choice might not always guarantee the best results. Just because everyone in the podcasting community seems to be flying solo with their podcast, or using a particular tool or platform to promote their show, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the key to success. Every podcast is different. It’s just a matter of trying on a bunch of shoes until you find one that fits.

Podcast Formats Are Not Set In Stone

Also, when I scanned the list of top-ranking podcasts and their corresponding formats, something else became clear. Essentially, the format question isn’t so black and white. Many of the podcasts featured in the ranker could be categorised as one format, but that wasn’t exclusively the only format they used.

For example, some solo shows also ran the occasional interview, and vice versa. No listener is going to get outraged if you decide to mix things up from time to time. In fact, experimenting with new formats occasionally can even breathe some new life into your podcast (for you as well as your listeners).

AI is a Powerful Content-Generation Assistant

And finally, this research is a good example of how we can leverage ChatGPT to learn new things about the podcasting industry. It’s a great tool for aggregating and organising large amounts of data so we can find patterns and tell stories with it. For example, Lindsay recently used ChatGPT to find out what listeners most dislike about our podcasts.

For one reason or another, many podcasters are still not using AI in their workflow, and this might be a missed opportunity to streamline your content and explore new avenues. Some podcasters fear that AI might replace them altogether, but there are plenty of compelling reasons why that won’t happen.

So, if you want to start using AI in your podcast workflow, try one of these ChatGPT prompts for podcasters as a starting point and see where it takes you. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Originally posted on October 18, 2023 @ 2:24 am

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