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Who do you think you are?

Understanding your own show is a key step towards audience growth

Podcasts come in all shapes and sizes – different formats, lengths, genres – but ultimately they tend to fall into three distinct types of show. So what are these three types and why do they matter to us?
In our last article we talked about the importance of asking the question, ‘what’s in it for me?’ when thinking about how to entice potential listeners into downloading your podcast.
Giving your potential audience one or more reasons to listen – and in particular reasons they care about – is a far better way of engaging with them compared to simply imploring people to listen to your show on social media.
Thinking about these reasons can be quite daunting, especially when considering that your audience aren’t all the same – different people will be listening for different reasons. Equally, the audience you have now could be different to the audience you are targeting for the future. This is where audience analysis can be a very powerful tool, and in this article we introduce some of the basic steps towards such an approach.
Let’s talk about the three different types of podcast that we think exist – and the reasons that people might want to listen to them.

The three types of podcast

1. Entertainment or Emotion-led podcasts
These are podcasts that people listen to because they want to feel a certain way – usually (but not exclusively) happier, more inspired or more relaxed. Chat shows, sketch shows, dramas – these are great at entertaining an audience and giving them a positive experience. While they’re often uplifting and joyful, they could also be shows that deal with difficult subjects such as loss and guilt, or more negative aspects of the world around. So long as they are providing an emotional experience that people value, they fall into this category.
2. Information-led podcasts
These podcasts are primarily focused on giving listeners new information on something they care about. This is different from celebrating something you already know about (see entertainment/emotion-led podcasts). A good example might be a podcast reviewing the latest video games – your listeners like gaming and want to know more about new games. Information-led podcasts leave people feeling that they know more about something than when they started listening. The best information-led podcasts also entertain.
2. Education-led podcasts
This type of podcast is all about teaching/educating listeners on a way in which they can improve themselves or their lives. The difference between information-led and education-led podcasts is that the former focus on sharing knowledge while the latter focus on building skills and/or helping listeners make a change. Good examples might be podcasts that help listeners improve their tennis game, teach meditation skills or help people who are looking to change careers. People listen because they value the advice, guidance and skills that are on offer and feel they can make an improvement or change to their lives or the situation.
You’ll already probably be saying to yourself that the podcasts you listen to fall into more than one of these categories – indeed some shows might fall into all three. And that’s because, as a general rule, a podcast that combines categories tends to be more engaging and enjoyable than a podcast that does one thing and one thing only. Arguably the best shows are the ones that combine all three in equal measure.

Better understanding your audience

So now we’ve covered the three most common types of podcast, you can consider which type or types best describe your show? Is there one category that stands out or is your show equal parts entertainment and education?
Once you have thought about this, the next step is to once again put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask yourself: why are they listening?
Is it because you are helping them feel a certain way? If so, what emotional experiences are you giving them and which do they enjoy most? Is it because you are giving them information they care about? If so, what kind of information do they like best and why do they care about it? Or is that you are helping them make a change in their life? If so, why might they be wanting to make that change and what are the most effective ways of helping them experience it?
These are all huge questions but by thinking about your podcast and audience in this way you can start to make some really powerful decisions, not just about how you can fine tune your show but also about how you can appeal to potential new audiences.
Promoting your podcast is as much about understanding what your show is offering as it is about telling people about those offerings.