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 For A Podcast Topic Good?
As of May 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.
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:
- 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.
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!”
25 Original Podcast Ideas You Should Try
If you’re having trouble getting a podcast idea brainstorm started, use this list to spark some creativity.
1. Your favorite topic
The first podcast idea is also the most obvious. Podcast about something you find enjoyable. This could be your favorite book series, movie genre, professional industry, or music scene.
Avoid topics you don’t find interesting even if you think they would do well. You’ll grow bored right away and lose motivation to continue podcasting.
2. 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. Chronicle your adventure as you learn a new hobby or skill. Talk about your successes and failures. Discuss the challenges honestly. Show off pictures and videos of your results on your podcast website. Encourage discussion in your community.
For example, if you 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.
3. Small town news
There are countless community newspapers around the US that are chock full of small town news. The general happenings and goings on in Smalltown, USA can make for great podcast fodder.
There are two ways to do this: You can either choose a different community newspaper each week or focus on the news in your community. Examine local politics, school news, local events, and anything else that comes up. You could even bring local people on to the show to get their side of the story.
4. 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 to 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. As seen on TV
You know those infomercials that play after 2 AM 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.
9. Dear Abby (advice column)
Have listeners submit their questions and problems. Respond to their submissions on your show with advice specific to their circumstance, similar to the old Dear Abby newspaper columns. You could answer general questions about life or questions related to your expertise. Follow up with the submitters later to learn about their results and publish that as well.
10. Narrate yourself doing something
Narrate into a microphone while you perform a task that relates to your overall podcast topic. For instance, if your show is about woodworking, you could narrate while you select wood or assemble a piece of furniture.
11. Quote of the day
Did you hear something valuable or inspirational? Share it with your fans! Read the quote, give some history and context, and then dive deep into the topic. Explain how the quote relates to your fans and their special needs.
12. Look back at a past event or topic
Examine an event that happened a long time ago. Expand on it with history, context, and new information. You could break down a historical event (like the founding of the United States) or something that happened to you (like that marketing strategy you implemented).
13. Podcasting about podcasts
If you really love podcasts, consider creating a show that reviews and reacts to other shows. You can discuss entire podcasts or specific episodes. Have your listeners their favorite shows and episodes for inspiration. Bring other podcast creators on to your show to discuss their experience.
14. Interview regular people
A lot of shows focus on extraordinary people, such as business leaders, celebrities, or the especially talented. But there are countless regular people in the world with interesting stories to tell. In fact, you don’t have to look very far to find them!
For example, you could invite a nurse on to your show to talk about the realities of treating COVID19 patients. Or you could speak with a sanitation worker to explain what really goes on with our trash.
15. Teach basic skills
There are countless podcasts that focus on helping you learn complex topics, but what about people who need to learn basic skills. You could create a podcast around everyday cooking, car maintenance, or navigating the increasingly complex Facebook. This podcast topic would be accessible to everyone!
16. Event/convention interviews
There’s a convention or event of some kind for every industry. Your listeners who can’t attend would love to learn about it, especially if the event is exclusive.
Attend an event that relates to your podcast topic and bring some recording gear. Record your thoughts as you explore the event. You could also interview attendees to learn their big takeaways from the event or key players (like speakers or the host) to get their thoughts.
17. Repurpose your existing content
If you have any existing content (like blog articles, longform social media posts, white papers, email newsletters, etc.), you’ve already done most of the work. Your podcast topic can mirror the topic of those assets. All you have to do is transfer it into a different format.
18. Tell a story
Tell a long, in-depth story that spans multiple episodes. It could be something that happened to you or something that happened to someone else. Or it could be entirely fictional.
For added production value, invite some other people onto your show to play characters in your story. It helps to plan the entire story beforehand so you know where it’s going and what points you’ll make along the way.
19. Top 10 lists
Who are the most underrated basketball players? Who are the most interesting Star Wars characters? What are the most unique car models? Create “top 10” lists of whatever you think people will find interesting. This podcast topic would make a uniquely eclectic show. You could make these lists for yourself or you could encourage your listeners to submit their opinions.
20. Topical/industry news
Find an interesting topic and focus solely on that industry’s news. Dive deep into that industry to report and explain the news that most people never hear. For instance, you could report on changes in the auto industry, track a particular political campaign, or chronicle the growing cannabis industry.
21. Podcast on the road
Instead of talking about your travels or bringing well-traveled gifts on your show, take your podcast on a journey. Record episodes as you travel around your country or around the world.
Make sure to narrate everything you see. Try to capture as much audio from the environment as possible, like the sounds of exotic animals and people speaking their native language. You could also record conversations with local people and other travelers.
22. Multiple perspectives
It’s often hard to understand why people think and behave the way they do because we can’t see their point of view. Create a podcast that examines events and media from different points of you.
For example, you could explain the Harry Potter series from the perspective of different fans. You could break down a candidate from the perspectives of people on different sides of the political spectrum. Or you could explain how natural disasters affect different kinds of people.
23. Review/recap popular entertainment
Do you follow a TV show, book series, sports team, or music scene? Turn your passion into content by reviewing the latest movie/book/episode/game on your podcast. You can explain what happened recently, explore fan theories (yours included!), and make predictions for the future. This podcast topic is easy to create content around because it’s closely related to something you love dearly.
24. Industry profile series
Most industries, scenes, hobbies, and fandoms are full of people who made big impacts on those genres, even if they aren’t well known. For instance, the manufacturing industry has a long line of innovators who pushed the boundaries of the business.
Create a series that profiles these highly impactful people. Devote an episode to each one that chronicles their life and story. Explain how they got into their industry or hobby and how they shaped it.
25. A day in the life of…
When a podcaster interviews a guest, he typically focuses on the big picture stuff, like “What made you successful?” or “When did you make your big decision?” or “How did you become so talented?” But those big questions-while important-don’t help your listeners connect with your guests. They need a more granular view to understand what it’s like to be a successful/talented/gifted person.
Choose a subject and interview them about their typical day. Take careful notes so you can walk your listeners through a day in the life. Start at the beginning: wake up, breakfast, and launching the day. Then get to the hard stuff: work tasks, family obligations, personal hobbies, etc. This will give your listeners an intimate peek into their idols.
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!