Thursday, September 1

Make Your First Podcast: Interview or Topic Based?

This is a question I’ve agonized over. That I’m still agonizing over!

I want to create a podcast, but what kind of podcast should it be? Should I have a co-host? If I do it by myself, should I do interviews with different writers/publishers or do something focused on a topic?

I’m going to examine these questions in more detail in a moment, but first I would like to acknowledge my debt to John Lee Dumas and his (free) Podcasting course.[1]

John’s podcast doesn’t have to do with writing or publishing but he has a successful daily podcast that I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago and which has become one of my favorites.

What I’m going to talk with you about today is inspired by his lesson #9: “Interview vs Topic, Frequency and Length.” I couldn’t find a direct link to his podcasting course, but if you head over to and look for “Free Podcast Course with John Lee Dumas” you’ll find it. Okay, on with the post!

Interview vs Topic Based

I listen to a lot of podcasts. It’s my primary form of entertainment these days (I finally cut-the-cord on the TV) and I’d say that about 30% of the podcasts I listen use an interview format, 30% have a topic based format and the rest are a mix. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, Let's look at the pros and cons of each:

1. Interview Based

As I’ve mentioned, even though it’s not about writing, one of the podcasts I like listening to is John’s Fire Nation podcast. Why? In every podcast he interviews entrepreneurs and asks each of them the same series of questions. For example:

What is your worst entrepreneurial moment?
You’ve had a lot of ‘ah-ha’ moments, what is one of your greatest?
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

And so on.

The answers are always different, usually interesting and often helpful. His is one of the most effective podcasts using the interview format I’ve listened to.

Advantages to using the interview format

i. Provide value to your audience

The aim of any podcast, or any blog post, is to provide value to your audience. Each person you interview will have achieved some sort of success and will likely have knowledge you lack. Not only will your audience learn something new and of value, but you might too.

ii. Grow your audience

Your guests will likely have an audience of their own, one they will share their interview with. This helps your podcast acquire new listeners.

Disadvantages of using the interview format

i. Tricky finding guests

In the beginning it can be difficult to find people to interview. No one will have heard of your podcast so you can’t wow them with the number of your listeners.

ii. Scheduling

Even if you are able to get guests for all your podcasts, you’ll have to schedule them. That can be a nightmare.

iii. Repetitive

Asking the same sort of questions every episode might get repetitive for some listeners.

2. Topic Based

The other option is to do a topic based podcast. For me, the epitome of a topic based podcast is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. And it works for him. In a big way. Dan Carlin's podcast was the first time I listened to a three hour podcast and enjoyed every minute of it.

Advantages of a topic based podcast

i. You can talk about what you like

You get to set your own agenda since you provide your own content. You can talk about whatever you want. And you don’t have to schedule interviews!

ii. The podcast will be your baby

When you do a topic based podcast, you know that folks are listening to the podcast because of you, your ideas.

iii. Independance

You don’t have to rely on anyone showing up for an interview!

Disadvantages of a topic based podcast

i. You are responsible for all the content

YOU need to curate whatever content you use in your podcast.

ii. You are responsible for being entertaining

YOU need to be interesting. Entertaining.

iii. You alone are responsible for growing your podcast

YOU are responsible for promotion and content. For growing your podcast.

iv. Your podcast will be limited by your own knowledge

Since you’re the only one providing content to the podcast there is the danger of it getting repetitive. Whatever you discuss will, necessarily, be limited by YOUR knowledge of the topic. In an interview you have the advantage of being able to draw from the perspectives, the knowledge, of your guests, but when it’s just you and a topic you are drawing from your own reservoirs every single podcast.

That’s it for today! Next time I’ll discuss your podcasting schedule. How frequently should you release your podcasts? How long should they be?

Until then, good writing!

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