How To Choose A Podcast Topic (& 7 Ideas To Get Started)

Last updated on February 13th, 2020

Choosing a podcast topic is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when you start a show. There are good podcast ideas and less intriguing ones, so it’s your job to figure out where your topic idea lands.

But don’t worry, ahead we’ll help you find and analyze which podcast topic is right for you.

To get started, download our Listener Persona worksheet. Detail exactly who your ideal listener is. This will help you through the decision-making process and finalize the perfect podcast topic.

With a completed listener persona in hand, let’s jump into what makes a podcast idea good.

What Makes A Good Podcast Idea?

As of February 2020, the most popular shows on Apple Podcasts have a few common topic threads: talk shows, true crime, and investigative journalism. Knowing these podcast ideas are already popular with large audiences, you may be tempted to jump right into one of these topics. But this isn’t the best approach.

podcast topics of top podcasts on apple podcasts
The top podcasts on Apple Podcasts as of February 2020.

Whether the topic is about finance or an unsolved crime, good podcasts focus on grabbing and holding the audience’s attention. What makes a podcast topic good is telling a story that touches people emotionally–relaying the information so the audience feels hope, suspense, sadness, and happiness as the story unfolds.

As you’re figuring out a podcast topic, start your research by listening to your favorite shows. Identify how the host unravels the story and what emotions bubble up as you listen. No matter which idea you choose, it’s this passion and enthusiasm radiating from the host that makes for a great podcast.

Next, we have four critical questions that will help you analyze if a podcast topic is right for you.

Four Questions To Ask Yourself When Deciding On A Podcast Topic

It’s easy to get paralyzed in the decision-making process! With so many creative avenues to go down, we pulled together four critical questions to ask yourself when finalizing your podcast idea. There are countless podcast topics to choose from but we’ll help you find the one that’s right for you.

1. Who is your audience?

News flash: You are NOT podcasting for you, you’re podcasting for your audience!

The purpose of a podcast is to address the needs of your audience. They may have a challenge to overcome, a problem to solve, or a subject they want to know more about.

In some cases, an audience just wants to be entertained or distracted for a while. This means in order to choose a podcast topic, you have to know your audience well enough to understand what they need.

How do you learn about your audience’s problems? Depending on your industry, there are resources to access high-level information about groups of people. Here are just a few:

If you have a more niche audience, try learning about their needs more directly. You can browse social media to see which accounts they follow and what content they interact with. But the best method is to speak with your potential listeners one-on-one.

Seek out communities you envision tuning into your show, whether in person or online, and ask them questions and listen to their concerns.

Joining relevant Facebook groups is a great way to do this within your niche. They’re a treasure trove of information about problems people are having, specific things they’re interested in, and areas that you could focus your podcast topics on.

As you collect the information, start drafting an ideal listener avatar so you can continue building this persona as your show comes to life.

2. What’s your personal interest?

The most important thing you should consider is how much do you care about your podcast idea. It needs to a topic you can talk about for hours, something you find interesting and entertaining.

If you don’t like the topic, there’s a good chance you’ll burn out and fall off consistently publishing new episodes simply because you’re not excited to put forth the effort.

Like many other podcasters, you likely have another job and life responsibilities so you work on your show in your free time. Being stimulated by your show’s theme can provide a necessary boost to spend weekends and evenings producing the show.

Interest is also critical because, especially in the beginning, your first few episodes may not see any downloads immediately. In times when you don’t see success, a compelling topic can help motivate you to continue producing the show simply because you enjoy talking about it.

In short, if your topic bores you, it’ll seep into your language and it won’t be long before your audience picks up on it. If you don’t care about your topic, why should they?

3. What’s your differentiator?

The top podcasts on Apple Podcasts and Google Play are popular because they’re unique.

They offer something you can’t find elsewhere or talk about a conventional topic in a new way.

Here are our favorite shows that nail this concept:

  • Spycast delves into the world of espionage and the international spy world, and even interviews guests from the CIA and other spy organizations.
  • Stuff to Blow Your Mind breaks down a new phenomenon in each episode and makes you question what you really know about the world.
  • You Must Remember This dives into the untold history of Hollywood in the 20th century, including historical events you’ve heard of and those you haven’t.

To find your differentiator, it often helps to make a broad topic niche. For example, refining a “marketing” podcast down to “ecommerce marketing on Shopify” will help you concentrate on a specific audience’s needs and home in on the right content for your episodes. Or focus on unique ways to tell a story. Instead of talking about historical sites from web research, visit them and describe what you see and feel. Want to talk about Game of Thrones with your girlfriends? Do it over red wine to make the conversation zanier then your typical recap podcast.

These kinds of topics aren’t just fun. They’re sticky. Listeners keep coming back for more episodes because they can’t get that kind of content anywhere else. If they find it unique, they’ll probably share it with their friends too.

4. Can it be monetized?

Like most podcasters, you may want to monetize your show at some point, so it’s important to consider how your potential topic will lend itself to revenue in the future.

For example, let’s say you want to start a podcast about engineering. Maybe you’ll talk about unique tools, sophisticated machines, and engineering as a career. How would you monetize a podcast like that? You could:

  • Sell sponsorships to learning platforms like Skillshare or Udemy for engineering courses
  • Sell your own engineering career training courses or informational products
  • Become an affiliate for a tool manufacturer and promote their products with your referral code

As you think about how to choose a podcast topic, draw a direct line to at least one monetization strategy. This way you don’t slap yourself on the forehead one day and say, “Oh no! There’s no way to make money off this!”

Seven Original Podcast Ideas

If you’re having trouble getting a podcast idea brainstorm started, use this list to spark some creativity.

Your trial and errors

If you’re someone who loves to try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone, why not document your trial and errors.

Can’t hold a note? Take up singing lessons then recount your progress and how the new skill has affected other parts of your life. Weave in interviews with professional singers, record pieces from the classes, or try a karaoke style episode to report on your progress.

Small town news

There are countless community newspapers around the US that are chockfull of small town news. The general happenings and goings on in Smalltown, USA can make for great podcast fodder.

Choose a different community newspaper each week and dive into the idiosyncrasies of small town life. From the police blotter and petty crimes to the debate on whether the high school should invest in stadium lighting for the football field, creating a fictional backstory for every event can lead to some funny discussions.

He said, she said

The adage goes there are three sides to every story: my version, your version, and the truth. Audiences love hearing multiple points of view about the same event.

Take this framework and apply it any number of stories. Have a couple each describe their first meeting, an interviewer and interviewee recount the interview that got them the job, or a police officer and inmate remember an unexpected arrest.

Use your voice to act as the narrator, adding more information and pointing out differences in each person’s story.

That one horrible boss or job

Most of us start our first job as teenagers and go on to work for 40 more years. Along the way, we’ve all experienced a horrible boss or job that left a mark on our resume.

Cover stories from one industry to unearth specific trends or focus on comical stories of getting fired. Going to work every day is one thing we share, this is a way to tap into that commonality.

Behind the scenes of influencers

Social media influencers have flooded our feeds with perfectly edited photos and captions. It’s easy to believe their lives must also be picture perfect in real life. But oftentimes, that isn’t the case.

Try taking a behind the scenes look at what goes into becoming an influencer. The hours spent behind capturing one image, the pressure to always be growing an audience, and the balance between sharing too much are all little talked about topics behind this massive industry.

Hypothetically speaking

Have you ever been in an elevator and wondered if you’d be able to breakout if it got stuck? Or staring out the window judging if you’d be able to land a jump to the ground?

You can analyze a number of hypothetical situations, adding your commentary and expert analyses to confirm or deny your hypotheses. The more unique the situation, the more out-of-the-box commentary you can weave in to create truly funny episodes.

As seen on TV

You know those infomercials that play after 2am and promote some seriously odd products? Think the Shake Weight and the Snuggie.

Try digging into the backstory behind each of these products. From the inventor’s entrepreneurial history to how many people actually bought it, these products are the perfect topic to generate wacky conversations.

Summary

In the end, your podcast has to be an intersection of these 3 main items:

  • Your interest in a particular subject
  • An audience that’s interested in the topic
  • Your ability to put a unique angle on the topic

The best shows are laser focused on these 3 key aspects and they guide many of the content decisions they make.

As you figure out what your own podcast topic, remember the only limit is your imagination. Use our seven podcast ideas to spark your creativity, then let yourself run wild generating a list of options. Pare them down by answering the four critical questions then record your first episode!

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