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What Is a Podcast and How Does it Work?

Podcasts allow you to share your content with listeners from around the world. Read on to learn more about what podcasts are and why they’re appealing.

Podcasting doesn't have a long history. In fact, the word podcast was introduced in 2004. While podcasts are a relatively recent invention, they've had a major impact on audiences across the world.

But what is a podcast, and why are so many people drawn to them? Podcasts are similar to radio shows but offer unique advantages that make them appealing to audiences and content creators.

There are many types of podcasts, and no 2 podcasts are exactly alike. No matter how you define podcasting, it's clear that this media format deserves a closer look.

So, what is a podcast, and how does it work? In simple terms, a podcast is a digital medium consisting of audio (or video) episodes that relate to a specific theme. The hosts of a podcast are referred to as "podcasters." While many forms of media have barriers to entry, a podcast is simple to create. To get started, podcasters only need basic equipment, like recording software and a microphone. Since podcasts aren't regulated, anyone is free to record and share content.

Typically, podcasters will record and edit digital content and share it with an audience. They can post on YouTube, publish audio files on a podcast hosting service (such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify), or share the podcast episode directly through their website.

Once a podcast is released, it can attract an audience in several ways. Podcast directories allow users to discover and subscribe to new podcasts. Since major search engines display podcast episodes in search results, strong SEO (search engine optimization) can also help a podcast find listeners.

The purpose of podcasts

Not all podcasts have the same goal, but as a general rule, podcasts are a form of entertainment. People might listen to a podcast to learn more about a topic, keep up with current events, or because they want to laugh.

A podcast can also be a powerful marketing tool. Podcasting can be an opportunity to promote your business, broaden your reach, or market to your existing audience. If you're able to build a community around a podcast, it can also be a way to build trust.

There are more than 100 million active podcast listeners in the United States, and they're becoming more popular each year. A podcast has the potential to inform, inspire, or engage its audience. Ultimately, a podcast is a way to share content. While some enjoy reading articles, others prefer something they can listen to. Podcasting is flexible, and podcasters can use the medium in many ways.

Like books, movies, and other forms of entertainment, podcasts cover various topics. While comedy is the most popular podcast genre, different genres, like true crime, news, and business, also have a wide audience.

If you try to define podcasting, you'll quickly realize that podcasts are incredibly varied. Podcasts can differ in length, tone, and format. Some of the most popular styles of podcasting include:


A conversational podcast is essentially a discussion. A podcast host may casually discuss a topic or interview guests. This format is similar to a traditional radio show.


While conversation podcasts usually feature co-hosts or a roundtable discussion, monologue podcasts have a solo host. It's an unscripted format that can cover a range of topics. Since you don't have to coordinate with other hosts, this podcast style can be an easy way to grow your audience.

Non-fiction storytelling

These podcasts present a real-life event in an engaging way. What's an example of a podcast that uses this format? "This American Life" is a popular radio show and podcast that tells journalistic human interest stories.


Many podcasts are non-fiction, but podcasts can also be a format for a fictional story. Some scripted podcasts tell a story over a few episodes, while others present standalone tales.


It's becoming increasingly common for content creators to repurpose existing content into podcast episodes. For example, hosts can read blog posts and articles during the podcast. This allows audiences to engage with content in their preferred format.


Podcasts don't have to stick to a single format. It's not unusual for podcasts to vary in style across episodes or over time. For example, someone with a monologue podcast might occasionally invite guests and host a conversational podcast episode.

Audio vs. video podcasting

While podcasting was exclusively an audio medium in its early days, that's no longer the case. It's common for podcasts to include a video element, such as video footage of the hosts or images and infographics. Both audio files and videos have benefits and offer different possibilities.

Audio podcasts are more accessible. While people can listen to a digital audio file anywhere, videos can only be enjoyed under certain circumstances. An audio podcast also requires less equipment and can be hosted on various platforms.

On the other hand, video podcasts can help podcasters reach a new audience. People that don't usually listen to podcasts may watch videos on platforms like YouTube or Twitch. When you use video footage, you can also share information that would be difficult to convey via audio content.

When choosing a format for your podcast, it's important to consider your goals, audience, and resources. Behavioral targeting can help you identify which type of podcast is more appealing to your target audience.

It's clear that podcasts have a vast audience, but what makes the format so popular? One of the most appealing things about podcasts is how easy they are to enjoy. Many podcasts are free to listen to, and people can listen to them at home or on the go.

Since there are many types of podcasts, virtually anyone can find a podcast that appeals to their tastes and interests. There's a podcast for any potential audience, from educational podcasts to laugh-out-loud funny podcasts.

The podcasting format is also ideal for multitasking. Audio podcasts aren't demanding and don't require your full attention. You can listen to a podcast while you're working, running errands, or even while you're exercising.

When people listen to a podcast, they can connect with a larger community. Podcasts can help people find others that share their passions and interests. Many podcasts have active subreddits or Discord channels where listeners can interact with each other.

Should you make a podcast?

Now that you know the answer to “what is podcasting?”, you may wonder whether this form of digital entertainment is right for your business.

Podcasts can be a highly effective content marketing tool. Starting a podcast can help you reach a new audience or stay connected with the audience you already have. You can also easily share podcast episodes with your subscribers if you have an email list.

That said, looking at the big picture before launching a new podcast is important. Weigh the pros against the cons and decide on the best way to proceed.

The pros of making a podcast

  • It's inexpensive. Podcasts take time, but they don't have many upfront costs. You can launch a new podcast without making a significant investment.
  • Podcasts are easy to access. Some types of content are difficult to enjoy, but podcasts are highly accessible. Your audience will have the freedom to listen to your podcast at a time that works for them.
  • It's an easy way to share information. Podcasts are an entertaining and effective way to share all kinds of information. Whether you want to discuss a new product or educate your audience, podcasts are great for getting your message across.
  • You can keep your audience engaged. Engagement is essential for any digital marketing strategy to succeed. A podcast allows you to keep the attention of your target audience.
  • It can boost your reach. If your podcast is successful, you'll be able to increase your audience via word of mouth. It's a highly effective way to reach a new audience.

The cons of making a podcast

  • It takes time. To make a podcast, you'll need to find time to record and edit episodes. You'll also need to market your podcast so that you can find more listeners.
  • Not everyone listens to podcasts. There's a big audience for podcasts, but podcasting isn't something everyone enjoys. Before you create a podcast, you'll have to determine if it’s the right way to connect with your audience.
  • It has to be entertaining. Most people will lose interest fairly quickly if your podcast isn't engaging. If you're thinking about starting a podcast, think carefully about the type of content you want to create.

Promote your podcast with Mailchimp

Podcasting allows you to build a personal connection with your audience. While written content can feel impersonal, podcasts are more intimate, making it easier to build your brand. However, ensure your target market is interested in listening to podcasts before creating one. A survey is a great way to gauge the interest of your audience.

If you're ready to launch your own podcast, Mailchimp can help you promote it. With various creative marketing tools at your fingertips, you can run targeted ads, create captivating emails, manage your social media, and more. Get started today and make your podcast a success.

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