Podcast Format Possibilities: Scripted Co-hosted
You don’t just want to make another branded interview podcast (and believe us — we don’t want you to, either). But if your podcast doesn’t follow the interview format, what are your other options? In this series, we’ll examine other types of engaging, entertaining podcast formats, so you can choose the right one for your show.
If you’ve been following this series, you know how it works by now. If you’re new here, welcome! We’re diving into all different types of podcast formats, because (psst, we’ll let you in on a secret): the “expert interview” style of audio show that we’re so used to hearing is far from the only way to structure your podcast.
Today, we’re diving into the Scripted Co-hosted format. One script, two hosts, and endless possibilities for how your show can turn out (okay, that was a little cheesy, but it’s true!). If you know you work better reading off a page than improvising dialogue and think your show would benefit from a two-heads-are-better-than-one approach, you’re in the right place. Come along to find out if a scripted co-hosted format is the one for you.
What Does a Scripted Co-hosted Show Sound Like, and Why Might it be Your Best Option?
As we touched on in our earlier exploration of the Scripted Monologue format, not everyone delivers their best audio under pressure. Not every host is the strongest improviser (yours truly certainly included), so in plenty of cases, scripting your show is the best way to tell a clear, concise story and ensure you make every point you want to convey to your audience. You might prefer a dialogue format to a monologue if you’re working with two hosts that have different but complementary areas of expertise. Listening to a conversation — even a scripted one — also helps audiences feel like they’re on a journey with the showrunners as the hosts discuss and discover ideas together.
So where might you have heard or seen this format? Vox’s Pivot — one of the best-known tech podcasts — is one of our favorite examples of this format. In the show, Recode co-founder and journalist Kara Swisher and NYU professor of marketing Scott Galloway (both of whom are very worth a Twitter follow, might I also add) discuss the biggest tech, business, and political news with scrutinous hot takes. Both have sharp tongues and strong opinions, and the two have an organic witty banter fueled by their respective expertise. Something especially effective about Pivot is that Swisher and Galloway’s dialogue does allow room to go off-script; each episode begins with an intro that feels unscripted and in the moment. Both hosts ad lib this section and embellish their scripted words with organic thoughts. The effect is a very natural and informative conversation, in which each thought leader is able to fully illustrate their point while allowing for some leeway for ad hoc thoughts and organic conversations to develop.
In Buffer’s The Science of Social Media, Heather-Mae Pusztai and Dave Chapman take turns exploring social media trends and tactics by answering audience questions in 15-minute or less episodes. Both are social media marketing experts and both work for Buffer — their expertise is more similar than Swisher and Galloway’s complementary perspectives, as both are social media marketing experts who specialize in community engagement. Their differentiation comes largely from their markets (Pusztai is in the US while Chapman is in the UK, so the even the different cadences in their accents help keep audiences engaged). The Science of Social Media has a smooth structure that comes from Pusztai and Chapman gracefully trading off talking points and feeding off of each other’s prompts. The scripted text ensures solid dialogue and smooth transitions. While it’s clear that the show is scripted, it never sounds false or inhuman. Instead, their rapport comes across as succinct and professional, and they convey their points eloquently and expertly.
Last but not least, the Ringer’s Binge Mode, co-hosted by comedians and Ringer employees Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion, is a pop culture podcast in which the hosts sometimes have a guest on the show, sometimes answer audience questions, and sometimes just discuss or rank pop culture trends themselves. The two have an infectious, energetic rapport with one another, building nicely off of each other’s points and opinions while following a clearly crafted and well-thought-out script. (Unscripted shows in which comedians exclusively ad-lib jokes are often charming and hilarious, but hosts risk losing listeners by diving too deep into tangents. Binge Mode remains funny and relatable while sticking to clearly mapped-out talking points). Listeners also get a great sense of the hosts’ personalities — Rubin and Concepcion are both unabashed in their nerdiness/geekdom, allowing listeners to get swept into their enthusiasm for Star Wars, The Good Place, and plenty of other pop culture phenomena.
Scripted Co-hosted shows are an excellent option if both hosts are experts in different fields, or have contrasting personality types that are especially highlighted with the right dialogue. Having a second host to bounce ideas off of or serve as a foil helps keep the conversation flowing, and a script ensures that each host can say everything they need to say while engaging optimally with their co-host.
Challenges to Keep in Mind
The shows above exemplify an important point to keep in mind when considering creating a scripted co-hosted show: Yes, the hosts are working from a script, but the show should still sound like a natural human conversation. When scripting a show, make sure you don’t get too tied to your script. Some of the best parts of shows are the ad libs and especially human moments that come up organically in the process — the kinds of moments you just can’t write. Let your script guide and anchor the conversation, but make sure your personalities come through, and allow for some light moments of organic banter if you feel comfortable with that.
The difference between scripted and unscripted dialogue can sometimes be very clear, and sometimes much more subtle. It’s all about finding the right balance for your hosts and your show’s subject matter — ultimately, show speech should always sound natural and human, but a scripted show might give you the chance to come across as more knowledgeable and informed. If that’s your goal and you think ad-libbed banter would detract from sounding as polished as possible, it can be helpful to have that pre-written script. In our unscripted format pieces, we’ve talked about how important it is to have an outline of your main talking points, even when you’re not actually reading off a script. Similarly, giving wiggle room to allow for moments of natural spontaneity in a scripted show helps allow for organic moments of comedy, inspiration, and banter. It’s all about finding the right recipe that works for you and your co-host — maybe sticking exactly to your script is the best way to make your most polished product, or maybe you need to allow each other some ad-lib room to get the best organic content. Try it both ways to find out. That’s the beauty of creating a show — you can (and should) feel free to attempt different styles and formats until you find the tools that work best for you.
One clear challenge of a scripted show? Writing the script itself. When you’re creating a scripted monologue, you have control over the entire creative process, from scripting to execution. Hosts of a scripted co-hosted show will need to clarify their individual roles. When hosting a show with another person, make sure workloads and delegations are very clear from the beginning. Is one person writing the script while another person edits the episode? Are you both writing and editing your own sections? Is one host purely the talent while another host is the scripting strategist? All kinds of models can work depending on your on-air personalities and skill sets, but it’s important to lock down a system before you get too deep in creation. Collaboration is all about communicating, and having a workflow in place will help you avoid any awkward “Wait, I thought we were doing it that other way,” conflicts.
A scripted co-hosted show is a great option if your show will feature two thought leaders or contrasting experts, if the show material is best explored through two different points of view, or if your hosts are just the kinds of people who deliver their best performances working off one another and collaborating. When choosing a scripted co-hosted format, make sure your script sounds natural (we humans prefer when the humans we’re listening to sound like, well, other humans, as opposed to robots), and don’t be afraid of letting golden moments of ad lib slip in. Your listeners should feel like they’re listening to a real conversation — one that just happens to be well-thought out and produced.