Saturday, 30 September 2017

6 Popular Podcast Formats: Which One is Right for You?

So, you want to start a podcast?
Before you begin thinking about where to host your feed or how to attract listeners to your show the first thing you need to do is decide what kind of show you'll be making. You need to choose a format.
Here's the thing that often surprises some people– not every podcast has to be an interview show.
While interview shows may be one of the most popular formats out there currently, there are many different ways to make a podcast and stand out. Here we'll be covering six main podcast formats to help you decide which will suit your content best:
  • Interviews
  • Conversational
  • Educational
  • Solo-casts
  • Non-fiction storytelling
  • And fiction storytelling (sometimes called podcast theatre)

Why choosing a podcast format is important

Building an audience is all about consistency. Consistency in the topics you talk about. Consistency in the style of photographs on your blog. Consistency in the frequency of when you'll post new content. And for podcasts, consistency in your show format.
Your audience likes to know what to expect when they click play on a new episode. If your show features a serious interview one week, a comedic discussion the next, and a solo rant the week after, you'll find it harder to gain traction. Your audience won't know how to describe your show when talking about it to other people, so it will be difficult to get new listeners through personal recommendations. And if you start with a totally blank slate each week it will be hard for you to keep up with the content production too.

The six most popular podcast formats

Luckily, it's fairly easy to settle on a format once you start thinking about what you want your show to be and the best ways you can bring value to your audience. Let's dig into the pros and cons of the six main formats.

Interview shows

Interview podcast examples
A classic in the podcasting world, interview shows generally feature a consistent host (or hosts) and a new guest each episode. They give the audience a chance to be introduced to a lot of interesting people within a niche and learn from their expertise.
Interview shows work best when there is a common thread connecting all the guests. Lead Singer Syndrome, for example, features a frontman of a band interviewing other lead singers about their experience, and The Laptop Lifestyle, hosted by ConvertKit's own Alexis Teichmiller, is all about entrepreneurial millennials. This consistency in niche is important when your audience is being introduced to someone new each week, so you'll need to decide what will connect all of your guests.


  • As conversation flows, minimal editing will be needed.
  • You won't run out of things to say on a topic, as each guest will bring their own perspective on your niche.


  • You'll need to put in the work of emailing and arranging new guests and recording on their schedule. And of course, you'll be at the mercy of Internet connections if you're interviewing via Skype or Google Hangouts.
  • There is already an abundance of interview shows. You'll need to think of a unique spin or niche to make yours stand out.

Conversational podcasts

Conversational podcast examples
Listening to a conversational podcast feels like overhearing a chat between two friends. Usually these types of shows have multiple hosts, and episodes could feature discussions on a focussed topic (like an album review roundtable on Modern Vinyl), or a wide range of things (ie- they chat about tech, life, and the Internet on Hello Internet).
These types of shows are easy to listen to, easy to record, and tend to be between half an hour to an hour long. Listeners will tune in because they like the hosts' personalities and because it is a conversation they're overhearing, they'll feel more connected to the hosts than to those reporting a story in a non-fiction storytelling show, for example.


  • Less structure means less time spent planning. You'll just need a brief outline in place of what you want to discuss in the episode.
  • There is always someone to bounce off of if you run out of things to say.


  • To keep your audience engaged and coming back for more, you'll need to get creative and specific with the topics you discuss.
  • Depending on where your co-host is located, you may have to deal with recording separately and editing the tracks together. And just like with interview shows, you'll be at the mercy of Internet connections when you talk over Skype!

Educational shows

Educational podcast examples
Educational shows often have multiple hosts but are more structured than a conversational podcast. The episodes will feature a specific lesson or takeaway, and listeners will tune in ready to learn about the topic at hand. Mariah Coz and Megan Minns of The Femtrepreneur Show, for example, produce new episodes every week teaching people how to create, run, and sell online courses.
Learning by listening to a podcast is great because you can do it while commuting, doing the dishes, walking the dog– they turn downtime into productive time! And producing an educational show will often mean creating evergreen content that can be consumed for years to come.


  • High-value information will keep your audience coming back for more.
  • It's easy to create supplemental content like PDF downloads, videos, or even full courses to get your audience involved on multiple levels.


  • Some topics can be hard to teach without supporting visuals. You can direct listeners to your site for show notes, but overall your lesson should be easy to grasp through audio only.


Solocast podcast examples
No co-host, no problem! Solo-casts feature monologues on a topic that's important to the creator. The episodes tend to be based on the creator’s own experience and could be anything from comedy to advice-based content. Your audience will really feel like they get to know you, and you can feel free to bring on guests every now and then for added interest.


  • No need to schedule recording around anyone else. Make a new episode when and where it works for you!
  • You'll build a deep personal relationship with your audience.


  • With no one to bounce off of, you'll have to hold down the fort on your own.

Podcasts that tell true stories

Truestory podcast examples
Storytelling podcasts are shows that do just that– report on stories from the world around us. They could be epic, in-depth sagas like the true-crime investigation of Serial. They could report on the news like The Daily. Or perhaps they bring to light smaller-scale interesting things like the science-based storytelling on Science Vs.
You could tell one story across a season (or multiple seasons!) or keep it short and have a new story for each episode. Either way, non-fiction storytelling podcasts are a chance for you to share your curiosities with the world. You'll need to put your investigator hat on to make a show in this format as they usually involve audio clips from different interviews and narration to inform the audience of what they need to know to get a complete understanding of the story.


  • These types of shows are addictive, as shown by the viral success of Serial. In an article on The Atlantic, Emma Rodero, a communications professor at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, said this on the subject,
“Audio is one of the most intimate forms of media… you are constantly building your own images of the story in your mind and you’re creating your own production.”
  • There's a lot of freedom to get creative with editing and production.


  • Generally a higher production value is expected with this type of show so there may be a learning curve when getting started, and you may not be able to produce shows as regularly.
  • These are not the types of shows where you can just hit record and talk into the microphone, there will be more planning and researching time involved.

Podcast theatre

Theatre podcast examples
If you're a fan of audiobooks or fiction stories in general, you'll love podcast theatre. These are fictional stories told across episodes like a TV show, but just audio! They feature voice actors, scripts, and just like TV shows they often have cliffhangers and intriguing plotlines that keep listeners wanting to know what's next.
If you're a fiction writer or into making short films this could be a great podcast format for you to explore and use your storytelling skills in a new medium.


  • There is a less saturated market for these shows currently.
  • Just like with non-fiction storytelling shows, these shows can be addictive!


  • This format is a lot of work. You've got all the difficulty of writing a story, with the added work of producing it with voice actors!
  • As this is a less common show format, it might be harder to get new listeners to give it a try.

How to pick your podcast format

Now that you've learned a little more about some different podcast formats ask yourself:
Which podcast format will suit my content best?
If the answer doesn’t immediately spring to mind, here are some clarifying questions that will help you make the decision:

What do you want your audience to get out of listening to your show?

If the main thing you want to do is help them learn, then perhaps an educational podcast will suit you best. If your goal is to entertain, then perhaps a conversation-based show with a hilarious co-host will work well for you.
Whatever your goal is, choose a format that will be best to help achieve it.

How can you make your show unique?

There's so much room for creativity within each format, and adding your own unique spin to it is important. For example, interview shows are a popular format in the business and marketing niche (for good reason, they allow the audience to learn from others' insights, successes, and failures), but this also means that if you decide to start an interview show in this niche you’ll have a lot of competition.
What will you do with this popular format so that you stand out? Give your audience a reason to listen to your show over the others in your niche. Perhaps this might mean combining elements of two different podcast formats or exploring a different side to your topic that other podcasts don’t touch on.

What format will best suit your personal strengths?

Along with choosing a format that best fits your goals, you should also consider your strengths and pick the format that best suits your content delivery style and editing abilities (although of course, you can always outsource that part if you wish).
For my podcast, Design Life, we chose a conversational format to talk about design topics over something heavily scripted or planned because we wanted to be seen by our listeners as peers rather than tutors. Tuning into our show is like overhearing a conversation between two friends on a topic that’s affecting us as designers because that's what it is! It's easy to record and easy to edit without outside help, which means we have no trouble sticking to a weekly schedule. So think about your own strengths and time constraints when selecting the format for your show.

What podcast format will you choose?

Of course, rules are made to be broken and you could go ahead and develop your own format from a hybrid of those mentioned above! In The Heart of It blogger Estee Lalonde uses a mix of monologue, interview, and storytelling techniques to share thoughts on a particular topic. And many solo-casts tend to break format every now and then and feature an interview with a guest. So don't feel trapped by this list. Instead, let it inspire you to create the format that will best suit your show needs.
What podcast format is your favorite to listen to? Why do you think that is? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, 29 September 2017

Don’t Let Fear Get in the Way of Starting a Podcast

Two weeks after moving to a new city as a fresh college graduate, I felt the first emotions of loneliness.
I began to think maybe moving to a new city, hundreds of miles away from home, not knowing a soul wasn’t such a great idea. But then I found the beautiful world of podcasts.
In my search for community in a new city, I found an ample community in the online world through podcasts. I couldn’t listen to enough of them! At the gym, in the shower, in the car, and even while cooking dinner.
I was hooked.
One podcast in particular that really shaped my entrepreneurial journey is The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes. His guests come from a wide array of industries and backgrounds and share their journey to greatness. This wisdom and insights from some of the most talented people in the world pushed me to think bigger and grow my mind. And because of this, The School of Greatness podcast changed my life.
As I started to ramp up my own blog and online brand, I started to daydream about starting my own podcast. If one podcast could change my life, what if I could create a podcast that would have the power to do the same for someone else?
So I took the leap, created a podcast logo, bought my equipment, and went through John Lee Dumas’s free podcast e-course. My podcast would be called The Laptop Lifestyle, where I would interview successful online entrepreneurs from all backgrounds on how they’ve built thriving online communities and businesses.
And then I sat on it all for about eight months. Scared to start. Scared to fail.
Finally, enough time passed and I had told so many people I was “starting” a podcast, that one of my dear friends pushed back. They asked, “When are you finally going to stop talking about it and just start it?” It was just the kick in the pants I needed. So I set a launch date and created a plan.
I’m sure you’re reading this right now thinking, “Why should I start a podcast? How will it help my business? What if no one listens in and I feel like a failure?”
I hear you! I asked myself those same questions before I started The Laptop Lifestyle. So let’s walk through these fears together so you can get past them.

Why should I start a podcast? Why me?

This might sound cliche, but there really is only one you in the world. No one has your life experience or your personal outlook on life. And no one has your mojo. Think of mojo as something only YOU can bring to the table.
An important factor in protecting your mojo is to never consume more than you create. Focus on your vision and core mission for creating. Use this as your true north and don’t let over-consumption from everyone else on the Internet keep you from creating your best work.
Focus on your vision- podcasting fears
If starting a podcast is a goal of yours, do it. Focus on your mojo and how much your community needs what you can give.
Here are a few reasons why you should start a podcast:

Build a deeper connection with your audience

There is something special about hearing someone’s voice as they empower you to take the next steps in your life or business. You begin to feel personally connected to them as they interview others and share more of their story.
A personal connection begins to form as you tune in and listen to someone’s outlook. It blows my mind the amount of emails or direct messages on Instagram that I get from complete strangers who listen to my podcast and the common thread they’ve shared with me is, “I feel like I know you and that we would be friends in real life.” How cool is that? All from a podcast. You can build this same online relationship with your audience.

It’s one of the easiest ways to consume content

People are busy and prone to distractions. Creating content that is easy to consume on the go is critical to staying in front of your audience. Podcasts are convenient to listen to in the car, at the gym, or even while you’re getting ready in the morning.
Plus, 85% of podcast listeners listen to all (or most of) a podcast. That means that once someone starts one of your podcasts, they more than likely finish the whole thing! Think of the opportunity there! People are less likely to read every word of your sales email or like your social media posts, but they will listen to almost all of your podcast episode. Sounds like a great opportunity to build a captive audience!

Position yourself as an authority in your space

This one is a natural byproduct of hosting a podcast. The more people listen in and you build trust with them, your community now sees you as an authority in your industry. The more you are seen as an influencer and thought leader, the more opportunities will come your way. With opportunity and exposure, comes more product purchases, which grows your impact.
See what just happened there? It’s a beautiful chain reaction that all comes from starting a simple podcast. Have I convinced you yet?

I’m scared to start because what if…..

At this point you might be thinking, “I’m scared to start because what if I fail? What if no one tunes in? What if I sound ridiculous and feel like the kid that no one wants to eat lunch with in the elementary lunch room?”
The truth is, you will feel all of these things. And more most likely. But we don’t have time to think like this– it’s negative and it will get you nowhere. It’s natural, so don’t judge yourself as you feel these emotions and ask yourself these questions. However, you can’t stay in this state of mind. It will paralyze your progress and stunt your growth.
I sat on my podcast idea for eight whole months because I was scared to put myself out there on the Internet. Something that helped with this was focusing on positive self-talk and setting realistic expectations.
I am not an Internet unicorn. I didn’t get 10,000 downloads on my first episode and I still don’t have big sponsors (this is a personal choice). My personal goal was to get 100 downloads on my first podcast episode. It felt attainable, and I wanted to set a goal that was far enough from reach to push myself but also close enough to achieve. And when I pictured 100 people in a room with me on the stage interviewing a guest, it felt like a good number.
How many podcast downloads would you like to get on your first episode? Or if you’ve already launched, what is a number that feels like a good goal? Now picture that number of people in a room. Powerful, right? Doing the mental exercise above adds the humanity back into our number crunching as we set goals.
Bottom line– being scared is okay. Use that fear or insecurity as fuel to push you into action.
You can do this.

It’s all too much. I don’t even know where to start.

You don’t have to have it all figured out right when you start. You don’t need the best, high-tech equipment, the devoted listeners, or even the experience.
As you get started with podcasting or even if you are reevaluating your current podcast, start small and keep it simple. Here are a few tools that have made my podcasting journey extremely easy:
  • Zencastr: This is a cloud-based podcast recording tool that allows you to record your interviews or solocasts in studio quality. All you have to do is simply send a link and receive a separate track per guest. This tool is a game changer for me.
  • SimpleCast: The name might give this one away, but this tool is a simple podcast hosting platform. It has beautiful, clean embeddable audio player, and unlimited bandwidth and storage.
  • John Lee Dumas’s free podcast course: This free e-course hands down helped me create and launch my podcast. This 15-day email and video course will take you step-by-step through the process of creating, growing, and monetizing your podcast. I highly suggest taking advantage of this free resource!

Don’t let your fears keep you from starting a podcast

Putting yourself out there is scary. And it can be even more scary to do so on the Internet because it feels permanent. I get it.
But this could be the first step toward building a strong brand and engaged audience.
So I challenge you to start thinking about your podcast as a way to serve your community instead of making it be this perfect representation of who you are. Start to think about a podcast name. Write down all the characteristics of your ideal listener. And start each day thinking of just one single step you can take toward creating the podcast you’ve dreamed of.

Don’t forget to register for this free masterclass

Now feels like a great time to remind you that you’re almost out of time to register for the free Launching an Online Business Masterclass from ConvertKit. If you’ve been dragging your feet on starting your new business, this is the course you need to get on track.

To give even more detail on the depth of instruction inside this course, here’s a full outline of the 30-day curriculum:

The Masterclass Content

Week 1: The Mission, Vision, and Why
  • Why are you starting a business?
  • What are the mission and core values of your business idea?
  • What is the three to five year vision for your business? Who will it impact?
Week 2: Building a Platform
  • Renting vs. owning your content: The importance of building a website and email list
  • Step by step website development
  • Getting your email marketing set up with your ConvertKit account
Week 3: Creating Your Launch Content
  • Outlining your opt-in incentives and first sequence autoresponder
  • Writing three key blog posts so you have content to launch with
  • How to developing your about page and homepage content
Week 4: Launch Time
  • Setting up and executing your promotion plans
  • Hitting publish on your website and blog posts
  • How to develop your email list over time with opt-ins and content upgrades

Finally, if you need yet another reason to register, the training in this course combined with your free trial of ConvertKit means you’ll also have access to the brand new visual automations feature.

This means you’ll be able to lay out onboarding sequences, follow-up emails, and any other smart email automation you can dream up, all in a visual editor that lets you spend less time wrestling with your email tool and more time on activities that build your audience and drive sales.

You’re going to love it!

Register before October 1st at 11:59pm CST

Again, this is your final reminder to register for this free course and commit (or recommit!) setting up your online business to succeed for years to come.

Take a minute to register now, and just like that, you’ll be ready to go! You’ll get your very first lesson in your inbox on Monday, October 2. I’m so excited to see your results!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

How to Customize Your Opt-in Forms for Performance and Growth

Of all the pieces that come together to build your email marketing plan, opt-in forms generally get the brush off. Most of the time these forms are undervalued and just get thrown together at the last minute. But they can actually be powerful when you utilize them to their fullest potential.
Opt-in forms are the cornerstone of your list building strategy and should be dealt with accordingly. They are the gateway to first contact between you and your new subscribers, and they’re the tool you use most to grow your list. Don’t you think it’s time to understand their importance and give them the respect they deserve?
This article will help you understand a little bit more about your opt-in forms and how you can customize them to fit your brand.

What is an email opt-in form and why you need them

Opt-in forms are the building blocks of targeted and segmented email lists. They are those little forms on the sidebars of websites or at the bottom of blog posts that asks a reader to enter their email address.
While you can have an opt-in form that simply asks for the reader’s email address so you can “keep in touch” and join your newsletter, the best practice for opt-in forms is to incentivize them. This means you create something of value for your reader and offer it for free in exchange for their email address.
Creating these opt-in incentives are a win-win for you and your reader:
  • Your reader gets free information on a subject they’re interested in
  • You grow your email list by adding a new reader
  • Your incentive helps you build trust and authority with your new subscriber
To get these incentives in your reader’s download folders and start growing your list, you need to create forms that are eye-catching, informative, and deliver on your promises.

What makes a good opt-in form

You’d be surprised how a few improvements to your opt-in forms can go a long way when it comes to increasing your revenue. From how you write a form’s copy to where you place it on your site, even the smallest tweaks can turn a blah opt-in form into one that converts. Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when creating your opt-in forms:

Keep it quick and simple

The whole point of an opt-in form is to entice your reader into accepting an offer in exchange for their email address–so don’t make it any more than that. You’ll be competing against short attention spans, busy work days, and an overload of advertising, so it’s best to keep your email opt-in forms as concise, direct, and to the point as possible. From copy to design, remember that less is more.
Here’s a couple do’s and don’ts on simplicity.
  • Don’t cram it full of custom fields. You can get more information on subscribers later on in their journey. When Expedia eliminated just one field from their opt-in form it resulted in a $12 million profit.
  • Do ask for their email address. Maybe ask for their first name too.
  • Don’t write multiple paragraphs about your offer.
  • Do write one strong call to action.
  • Don’t add multiple images or generic stock photos.
  • Do stay on brand with your visual identity when creating forms.

Focus on one solution

Your offer should target a very specific part of your audience if you want it to be effective.  This will not only help you build an audience that is organically niched down to your topic, it will also help you segment your readers later. So figure out what your readers’ biggest problem is and create an opt-in form and offer that solves it.

Make it consistent

Thinking through the consistency of your opt-in forms is generally overlooked. But following through with tone, imagery, and onboarding goals will help your opt-ins feel more like an actual part of your blog strategy instead of a one-off attempt at more signups.
To find more consistency, walk yourself through your reader’s signup process. What page are they on when they sign up? What are they reading when your opt-in offer pops onto the page? Once you’ve gone through these steps you might see some ways to improve your messaging or even the incentive that you’re offering.

It should be convincing

Everything about your opt-in form from the copy, the style, and the length needs to be enticing enough to grab a reader’s attention and convince them to take a step further into your world. That means it’s time to put on your persuasive writing cap and make your readers an offer they can’t refuse.
Here are a few ways to do that:
  • Make sure your headline clearly describes the benefit of the opt-in. For example, the headline for our opt-in form for a PDF of this issue is “Experience this issue your way”. That headline speaks to the benefit you get from downloading the PDF.
Tradecraft Opt-in Form
  • Did you say enough, but not too much? Use bullet points to convey your information in a quick and easy to read format.
  • Use strong action words on your CTA buttons compelling the reader to click through
Strong Call to Action Words For Your Opt-in Forms  
The next step to optimizing your opt-in forms is to understand where your reader sees them.

Where to place opt-in forms

Close your eyes for a second and envision an opt-in form. Where do you see it on the website? If the first place you thought of was the sidebar, you’re not alone. It’s very common to see opt-in forms on the the sidebar of most sites, but have you thought about all the other places on your blog they could go?
  • After blog posts
  • With content upgrades
  • At checkout in your shop
  • In a homepage feature box
  • On a custom landing page
  • In your website footer
  • On your Facebook page
  • As a Twitter card
  • On your contact page
  • In a popup box
  • On a slider
  • On your YouTube channel
  • On your about page
Obviously, the more locations you have opt-ins, the higher your conversion rates can be. But just because you can add more doesn’t mean you should. When you’re adding your forms to new places on your site, make sure you’re thinking through your reader’s experience, the hierarchy of your site content, and the main objective of the page you’re placing the forms on. Never add a form if it doesn't flow with the content or makes the page feel cluttered or confusing. Keep maintaining your consistency and focus on your placement as well.

Complete guide to customizing opt-in forms in ConvertKit

Now for the fun part. It’s time to teach you how you can customize your opt-in forms to better fit the style, flow, and tone of your brand.
From here on out, don’t let your opt-ins be afterthoughts.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Launch your business the right way - in 30 days

Did you have a chance to think about making a commitment to start a true online business by joining Launch an Online Business Masterclass that launches next week?
In case you need a reminder – this four-week class walks you through all the little details of starting an online business from scratch. On top of taking a deep dive into creating your mission, business model, website, launch, and initial audience, you’ll also have access to weekly live training every Friday.
These sessions taught by experts on the ConvertKit team will give you the chance to learn each topic more deeply than you can with any written or recorded lessons, and it also gives you face-to-face time for Q&A’s around anything you need help with (don’t underestimate the value of being able to ask questions!).
To further support your journey as you (finally!) take your business seriously and build it the right way, you’ll also be a part of a Facebook Community group with other students going through the masterclass. Accountability. Encouragement. Fellowship. It’s all there.

Launch an Online Business Masterclass starts October 2, and it’s completely free.

Think about that for a second. You’ve been around the Internet for more than a minute or two, so you know that learning resources usually come in two varieties:
  • Free - costs nothing but you get what you pay for: usually written, hard to determine credibility, DIY in nature (no live help)
  • Paid - (sometimes) higher quality, (sometimes) more credible, can come with some support (live or not)
I’m giving you a chance to have the all pros of both these, with none of the cons.
On top of it all, ConvertKit is including a 30-day trial of the best email marketing product for creators like you. Which will cost, you guessed it, nothing upfront.
Again, the masterclass kickoff is just a few days away, so take advantage of this no-brainer commitment to yourself and the future of your business today.