How to Write a Great Podcast Structure

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How to Write a Great Podcast Structure

A good podcast structure makes life easier for both podcast creators and their listening audience. ☺️

May 18, 2023 • About 11 min. read

podcast-structure

Podcast creators can use the structure for a roadmap in recording and editing their episodes. The audience relies on structure to make sense of the content and feel at ease when listening.

There are three main building blocks to a basic podcast structure: intro, main content, outro. We’ll go through each one so you have a clear idea of what an overall episode structure should look like. 👷

Since the “main content” podcast structure depends on what kind of podcast format you use, we’ll take time to review some of the best structure options for solo host, interview, and narrative storytelling podcasts.

At the end, we give a few tips on how to write the structure itself, no matter what podcast topics your show is about.

Ready? Let’s go! 🚀

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Podcast Structure Block 1: Intro

To start things off, there is the intro section.

Music or Quotes

Typically this begins with music, or at least a short podcast sound effects riff. Usually it is best if the intro music is the same across episodes. That way longtime listeners feel comfortable and locked in. 🎵

However, sometimes the intro section begins with a short, pulled quote from the episode recording. This acts to whet the audience’s appetite, making them excited about what is to come.

Either option is fine. A combo works as well too. Whatever you eventually decide, you just need to stick with it. 👍

Podcast Name and Basic Info

The next step in a good intro is for the host to say the podcast name and basic information like the host’s name, the tagline, or just a short welcome greeting. 👋

Again, this gives structure for the listener. Their mind gets prepared to take on the information you are about to give them. They get oriented and comfortable.

Episode Description

Then you get a little more specific in your content. You tell your audience what they can expect in this specific episode. 👇

It is best not to go in-depth here. You just want to give your audience a sign of what is to come, not spoil everything for them.

Think in terms of what the theme for the episode is. Or simply describe the topic or topics you want to cover.

If you you have a podcast guest, this is a good opportunity to introduce them. 🤝

Some podcast creators like to record this part after they have already recorded the main content of the episode. That way they know exactly what the episode is going to be about, and therefore can give a spot-on description in the intro.

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Transition to Main Content

The last step of this block is the segue from your intro to the main content of the episode.

Don’t over think it, but don’t assume you can just wing it. Intentionally plan how you are going to pivot from the introduction to the content. This is a minor section, but it can really help you episode shine if done well. 🤩

For example, if you’re doing a video episode, this can be a great time to cut to a new camera angle or change the lower third on screen. 🎥

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Podcast Structure Block 2: Main Content

This is the main event! This section should take up most of the podcast structure. Of course this section is also the one most dependent on the specifics of your podcast format. 🤓

What do we mean by format? We mean who is on the show and how they are giving the content. The three formats we will focus on are narrative storytelling, solo host, and host with guest interview.

Narrative Storytelling Podcast Structure

Structure is important for all podcasts, but especially in narrative storytelling podcasts.

The storytelling structure that we usually hear in every day conversations is chronological and linear: A happened, then B happened, and that made C happen. While that is very efficient for getting information across, it is not exactly the most intriguing or entertaining way to do it. 😴

The Last Shall Be First

One great structure for these kind of episodes is starting at the end of the story. You know, the whole freeze frame, record scratch, and “I bet you are wondering how I got heremoment at the start of a TV show or movie. 😂

Rather than “A happened, then B happened, and that made C happen,” it is: “Here is C. To understand how we got here, you have to go back to A, then B.”

Start in the Middle

Another good structure is to start in the middle. Sticking with our ABC example, the order would be: B, A, C. 🔀

For example, let’s say you’re a reporter putting together an episode on a topic you investigated. The linear chronology is (A) A whistleblower contacts you to meet up (B) You get on the train to meet them and you are nervous (C) The whistleblower tells you their info.

With the “starting in the middle” structure, you could start with the sound of a busy train and you talking into your recorder that you are really nervous and apprehensive (B). Then transition to you at a quiet audio recording studio, explaining that you had been contacted by a whistleblower (A). Then you finish with what the whistleblower told you (C). 🕵️

Different Perspectives

Remember, structure is more than just time. For example, it is also perspectives. 👁️

Let’s say you’re doing a true crime episode and you have interviews with the accused person and the police You could include all their perspectives at the same time as you tell the story, step by step. Or you could make it more compelling by playing with the structure a little bit.

For example, you could first go through the crime through the police perspective— they are sure that the accused person is the one who did it and they show you all the evidence that proves it. Your listener is absolutely convinced of this perspective. But then you flip everything on its head by giving the accused person’s perspective— they provide alibis and evidence that the police did not even mention. 😲

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These are just three examples of how you can play with structure in order to add more suspense and energy to your storytelling. There are a ton of different ways to do this, so think outside the box! 🧑‍🎤

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Solo Host

There aren’t a lot of variables in a solo host podcast format so you don’t have as many creative options as a narrative storytelling format.

But that is not to say that structure is not important for this format. On the contrary. Solo hosts depend on structure to give their episodes life!

Same Segments Every Episode

When a podcast host doesn’t have another person to build rapport with on the show, or they don’t have a story with characters to develop, they need to build a relationship with the listeners themselves. How can you do that? Shared experiences… in the form of having the same segments every episode. 🥰

What do we mean by this? Let’s say you have a podcast where you talk about the latest trends in wellness. You could have three segments that make up the structure of every show: “Latest News,” “Best Thing I Read this Week,” and “Scam Alert.” That way listeners know what is coming and they also remember the past topics you covered in those same segments, creating some nostalgia, excitement, or at least feeling they are getting to know you. 🫶

Timed Segments

Even if you do not want to do themed segments every episode, you can still use podcast structure to help your show keep up a pace. One way easy way to do this is timed segments. ⏱️

If your audience knows that you always spend exactly five minutes on each topic, they won’t grow restless. They won’t wonder if you are going to go on and on about a topic that is not exactly what they are super interested in them.

Instead, they’ll listen to new information with ease, knowing that it won’t take up too much of their time. This also opens them up to being more willing to listen to new content and stay interested in your podcast for the long term. 🥳

Host with Guest Interview

We’ll wrap up this section by talking about one of the most common podcast formats: A host interviewing a new podcast guest every episode. 🎤

Questions as Structure

The most natural podcast structure for this format is to use questions as your structure. This especially works well if you send your guests the list of the podcast interview questions ahead of the recording date and let them know about how long their answers should be.

It works even better if you ask guests to give you feedback about the questions ahead of the interviews– that way you can develop questions that they know they can confidently answer for that length of time. 💪

Use Chapters Feature

If your hosting platform offers a chapters feature use it! (yes, Ausha offers this tool 😻)

While the chapters feature helps with the podcast structure of all kinds of formats, it is especially crucial for interview episodes. Make each question its own chapter.

With this feature, listeners can skip ahead to what they really want to hear. Or they can simply relax more, because they have visually seen what the episode structure is going to be. Even better, chapters allow listeners to easily identify their favorite section and send it on to friends and family to check out– priceless (free) marketing! 🤑

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That’s all we’ll cover for now in terms of podcast structure for the middle “main content” block. Obviously, there are tons more options… In fact, it is kind of limitless. But hopefully the examples we gave here get your creator wheels turning! 🧑‍🔬

Podcast Structure Block #3: Outro

The final part of a basic podcast structure is the podcast outro.

Call to Action

The outro is the part of the podcast structure where you want to put your Calls to Action. Calls to Action, often referred to as CTAs, are when you ask your audience to take an action. 📣

Examples include: Ask them to rate and review your podcast, ask them to share the episode with a friend, ask them to follow the guest and/or show on social media networks, ask them to sign up on your email list, etc.

Music

Like the intro, this is a good spot for a music sound track to bid your audience farewell. Unlike the intro, there is more flexibility in the sound selection– this podcast music does not need to be the exact same every episode if you don’t want it to be. 🎷

After all, in this section, you aren’t conditioning you listeners to tune into at this point.

However, sometimes using the same outro music every time, can condition listeners to get really excited about the next episode. That will ensure they follow your podcast and automatically download any new episodes. So consider giving it a try! 🎶

Podcast Structure Tips

We’ll finish this blog post with a few concrete tips for when you sit down to actually create and use your podcast structure.

Use Index Cards

Use index cards to plan out your podcast structure. On each card, write a topic or a piece of the story you want to tell. The more specific, the better. ✍️

Then move the index cards around, changing the order. Playing with the index cards this way can help you visualize a unique, creative structure that will keep your audience tuned in. 🤹

Script vs Outline

No matter what, you want to have a written guide with you during recording to make sure you’re sticking to the structure you planned. It is up to you if you prefer a podcast script or just an outline. 📝

Don’t be afraid to use a script and read it during an audio recording. Your audience would rather hear you come across a little flat, but well-structured rather than natural and rambling. This is an especially good option for a podcast creator who is just getting started.

If you do choose to only use an outline, make sure to note the length of time you want each segment to take and then stick to it when you record. ⏳

Don’t Rely Too Much on Editing

Sometimes it’s tempting to just record without much structure and just say you’ll give it structure when you edit it. 😈

Editing can definitely give your podcast structure that extra umph. But don’t over rely on it.

Have a guide going into your recording session, stick to it, and then simply use editing to make it shine. 🏆

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Final Word

People love having a clear guide and roadmap when consuming new information or stories. Structure also makes it easier for podcasters to create interesting episodes. Win, win!

So give it a try!

And as always, enjoy the journey! 🧑‍🚀🪐

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May 18, 2023

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