Last updated on December 4th, 2019
Choosing a podcast topic is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when you start a show. It’s easy to get paralyzed in this step so we’re walking you through four criteria to consider when choosing your theme. While there are countless podcast topics to choose from, we’ll help you find the one that’s right for you.
4 Questions To Choose A Podcast Topic
You may be tempted to jump right into one of the most popular podcast topics, like comedy or true crime, but that’s not the best approach. Instead, consider these questions as you brainstorm a list of themes.
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:
- American Fact Finder
- Business Dynamics Statistics
- Nielsen MyBestSegments
- Pew Research Center
- Edison Research
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.
What’s your personal interest?
The most important thing you should consider is how much do you care about your podcast topic. It needs to be something 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?
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.
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!”
Tie It All Together
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 extremely tightly aligned among these 3 main aspects of their podcast’s topic, and it guides many of the content decisions they make.
If you’re just starting out a new show the easiest way to determine how this best fits for you is to create a detailed Listener Persona (click here to download our free Listener Persona worksheet). Detailing exactly who your Ideal Listener is will help you through the rest of the decisions around your show’s direction.