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Research Guides

Introduction to Podcasting

A library guide introducing various sources and best practices related to the creation of podcasts.

Typologies of Podcasts

The information below originates from the Libguide, Podcasting and Audio Storytelling, written by Justin Schell for the University of Michigan. This is meant to be a list of examples that can help you to:

  • Decide how you will frame and convey the story you are telling
  • Examine a variety of ways that a story can be told
  • Explore a vast sea of examples that are already out there

Justin's 'incomplete typology' is "not intended to be an exhaustive list of podcast formats or types, merely an overview of some of the most commonly used non-fiction/documentary story shapes and formats. Many podcasts also blend components of several of these structures quite effectively."

1. Monologue

  • One track featuring solo voicehopefully a compelling speakerwithout much supporting material (akin to the format of Talk Radio)
  • Might include interlude music or other breaks for the sake of variety
  • Examples: The Memory Palace and Hardcore History

 

2. Interview (Basic)

 

3. Interview (Intermediate)

  • Evidence of some basic editing to remove particles (ums, ahs, etc), possibly some restructuring of clips to create or clarify a narrative in post-production
  • Might have a break in the middle for a change of pace (or to run an advertisement)
  • Example: WTF (Marc Maron), How to Science

 

4. Interview (Elaborate)

  • Evidence of more advanced editing, the addition of music or sound effects throughout, inclusion of multiple voices, etc.
  • Sometimes styled as a conversation after the fact in post-production (e.g., a host records a question they didn’t ask the interviewee directly, but to which the interviewee’s statements contain the answer). This is done for emphasis and clarity. Other times, the episode is styled as a conversation between a host and a reporter/producer, who "tells the story" to the host in such a way that it includes all these other sonic elements.
  • Example: Many of the more polished and popular podcasts out there fall into this category, but Reply All is one example of this kind of style.

 

5. Conversation Among Hosts

  • Could have elements of all of the above, but its core structure is a conversation among multiple regular hosts/contributors (similar to a panel discussion)
  • Example: How to Survive the End of the World (Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown)

 

6. Narration/Voiceover + Interviews + Other Audio

  • The voiceover provides the narrative structure for the story (the ‘glue’ or throughline)
  • “Picking and choosing” pieces from the interview(s) and other audio clips to add dimension to the story
  • Example: This American Life, 99% Invisible, Radiolab

 

7. Non-Narrated Podcasts

  • A type of story where the voices of people in the story comprise most, if not all, of the story itself. While it may be edited by a producer, the story features little to no narration by that producer.
  • Examples: Snap Judgment, Love + Radio, Radio Diaries

 

8. Performance Presentation

  • A recording of a live presentation of some kind (poem, reading, interview from live event, etc) that is ‘wrapped’ with a voiceover before and after to contextualize, and/or summarize it
  • Example: The Moth

 

9. Fictional Narrative Podcasts

  • Reminiscent and often inspired by the radio dramas popular throughout much of the 20th Century, these shows either create original dramatic content or adapt existing written content to the audio drama format. Elements can vary among shows, but most will include multiple voice actors for different roles and sound design, including music, ambience, and sound effects.
  • Examples: Welcome to Night ValePassenger List, The Truth