There are countless potential podcast topics to choose from, but you only need the one that’s right for you.
Choosing a podcast topic is arguably one of the most important decisions you’ll make when you start a podcast. It’s something you will have to live with throughout the life of your show.
It’s easy to get paralyzed on this step. You may be apprehensive about moving forward with your podcast because you’re not sure if your topic is right.
There’s no clear process for choosing a topic. It’s helpful to explore lots of podcast topics before making your decision, even if you already have a topic in mind. You’ll also want to run your topic by some people you trust to get their thoughts. They could help you identify potential pitfalls or make illuminating suggestions.
Ultimately, choosing a topic is an intimate decision. We can’t make it for you, but we can go over a few things you should think about as you make your decision.
The Purpose of Podcast Topics
You might be tempted to jump into one of the most popular podcast topics categories. According to Music Oomph, those are society and culture, business, comedy, news and politics, and health.
But that’s the wrong way of approaching your topic. You shouldn’t choose a topic just because it’s popular.
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. (This applies to creating any kind of content.)
For instance, let’s say you want to create a podcast to serve an audience of ecommerce store owners. In order to choose a podcast topic, you need to be intimately aware of the challenges they face every day. Do they need more traffic? Do they want to increase conversions? Do they have operational problems, like inventory management or product sourcing?
How do you learn about your audience’s problems? Depending on your industry, there are plenty of resources to learn about groups of people. Here are just a few:
- American Fact Finder
- Business Dynamics Statistics
- Nielsen MyBestSegments
- Pew Research Center
- Edison Research
There are lots of ways to get a high-level view of your audience. You can browse what they say on social media. You could find out what sources and influencers they follow and follow them yourself. if you already have a website, you can learn more about your audience using website analytics and heatmaps.
If you already have an email list, or have access to an email list (maybe you know someone who will send an email to their list on your behalf), you could send a survey to collect data on their problems and needs.
Truthfully, however, the best way to learn about your audience is to talk to them directly. Ask them questions, listen to their concerns, and get to know them as best you can. Talk to you as many people from the group as possible to get a good sample size.
This is one of the reasons we think it’s important to start your own podcast community as early as possible. A community creates a direct line of medication to your audience.
As you gather information about your audience, put it together in a marketing persona document and keep it nearby. Buffer has a great guide on how to do this.
Here’s a great example:
Like most podcasters, you probably want to monetize your podcast at some point, so it’s important to consider how your potential topic will lead to revenue in the future.
There are a lot of ways to monetize a podcast. You might sell ads, sell premium content, ask for donations, sell products and services, etc. It doesn’t really matter how you monetize your podcast, and you certainly shouldn’t monetize right after starting your podcast, but you should have some idea how a topic lends itself to monetization.
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, Udemy, or Lynda (they sponsor a lot of podcasts).
- You could sell engineering career support.
- You could become an affiliate for a tool manufacturer and plug their products with your referral codes.
- You could create and sell your own information products to your listeners.
As you can see, it’s not hard to find ways to monetize a podcast. You just need to draw a direct line from your topic to at least one monetization strategy before you settle on a topic. 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!”
As of 2019, there are more than 700,000 podcasts and 29 million episodes. That’s a lot of audio content!
The top podcasts on Apple Podcasts and Google Play are popular because they’re unique. They offer something people can’t find in other podcasts or other content formats. Or if they do talk about something conventional, they do it in a unique way.
- 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.
You may find it hard to come up with unique podcast topics. They often come from a moment of inspiration when you’re talking with your mates or standing in the shower (the birthplace of plenty of good ideas).
It often helps to make a broad topic niche. “Marketing” is a poor podcast topic because it’s too general. The target audience is far too large to target and your episodes would be all over the place.
“Ecommerce marketing” is better because the subject is more narrow. You could even take it further by focusing on “Ecommerce marketing on Shopify” or “Ecommerce marketing through paid ads.”
Look for unique ways to tell your stories, as well. Instead of just 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 zany!
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.
Your Personal Interest
Okay, so we’ve given you a lot to think about regarding podcast topics. We’ve laid out some criteria to help you choose a topic for your podcast. But here’s the most important thing you should consider:
You have to care about your topic.
Your podcast topic needs to be something you can talk about for hours. It needs to be something you find interesting and entertaining.
If your topic bores you, your boredom will seep into your language. Your listeners will pick up on it. It won’t be long before they realize you don’t care about the topic. And if you don’t care about it, why should they?
The worst part is that if you don’t like the topic, there’s a good chance you will burn out and podfade.
What’s podfading? Podfading is like ghosting. It’s when you fade away from your audience. You might produce an episode late, then miss a week, and eventually stop publishing at all. This happens all the time when podcasters choose topics they don’t enjoy. (Editorial calendars help prevent podfading, but they don’t cure boredom.)
Interest is critical because in the beginning, no one will be listening to you. Your first three, five, or even ten episodes may not see any downloads in their first weeks. A lot of people don’t bother listening to new podcasts until they’ve already built a library of episodes. So you’ll need to enjoy what you podcast about even when you don’t see success.
Your topic is should also be something you don’t mind giving your free time to. Like many new podcasters, you probably have a job and other responsibilities in your life. If you work on your podcast in the evenings and weekends, you must be passionate about the topic so you don’t feel like it’s all work.
Podcast Topics Can Change
Well there’s no doubt that you’re topic is a critical decision, that doesn’t mean you are locked into that exact topic forever. You will always have a little bit of leeway to change.
For instance, let’s say you start a podcast that reviews science fiction books, but eventually feel constrained by the topic. You could broaden your topic to include other types of fiction genres.
Many of your fans will probably like that, but not all. A few will probably find a different podcast that meets their specific needs. But it’s better to lose a few fans then force yourself to work on a podcast you don’t enjoy.
How did you choose a topic for your show? Did you know right away or did you sort through a list of podcast topics? Let us know in the comments.