Want to podcast but don't know what to talk about? Unsure what different formats there are? This post will hopefully help you figure it out!
Keep in mind you don't have to come up with an original topic. If you get this great idea but find out it's already been done, excellent! This means there's an audience for it! It also means you can potentially market your show on that other show, or be a guest there, or get them on as a guest. Podcasting always comes down to the execution and how well the show is made and not the idea.
My best advice to picking a podcasting topic is to pick something to talk about that you have an unfair advantage over the average person in that area. For instance you might know a lot about astronomy, more than the average person. Or you might have had some experiences in life that others are just now facing or have never faced but need help getting through it. Because you are more experienced or knowledgeable then the average person, it makes for a great topic.
Another exercise to try is to think if there's any topic you could make 50 blog posts about. If so, this means you have a passion for that subject and have a lot to say about it. So if your topic is parenting, could you come up with 50 blog post ideas to talk about? Picking a stroller, picking a baby name, when to see a doctor, how to handle tantrums, are all potential podcast episodes.
It helps to choose a topic you're passionate about. This will help you get through periods where you're unmotivated. It'll also help you learn more about your passions. Because you'll study topics for an episode or get guests on who are experts in that area, making you better too. Listeners will appreciate you more if you're really into the topic your show is about.
You can check if your topic is interesting to others by doing research on it. Check if there's a conference dedicated to it, or people blogging about it, or a subreddit dedicated to it, or other podcasts already about it. If any of these are true then others are interested in this topic too.
Decide if your topic is relevant. Politics is white hot in America right now. New movies, music, and books also have a natural buzz. Topics that are part of our current events will be easier to find audiences for compared to stuff that we all lost interest in decades ago.
Consider if your topic is time sensitive. Nobody listens to sports scores and recaps from games played years ago. So if you're making a sports commentary podcast, each episode has a short lifespan. Same with news. While this is still perfectly fine to do, it's good to keep it in mind. The opposite is evergreen content. Something where people will be interested in hearing it for years or decades later, such as a good storytelling podcast.
We connect with humans. It's a safe move to put people in the center of your show. Specifically their stories, emotions, ideas, experiences, and strategies. Going deep into these things can create a really powerful show.
Develop a 10 Word Description
Once you have your show topic picked out, describe your show in 10 words or less. Some examples:
- Criminal: Stories of people who have done wrong or been wronged.
- Reply All: A podcast about the internet.
- Disgraceland: True crime stories about musicians we love.
- Smart Passive Income: A show revealing various passive income strategies and tactics.
This 10 word description is important because it should be the filter in which every episode can fit into. It also gives you a guide as to what your focus is on the show. Without a focus the show can drift into areas unexpected which can lose listeners.
Now that you have a topic picked out, the next thing to figure out is how to deliver it. There are many ways a podcast is formatted. Here are a few format styles.
- Documentary style (like Startup or You Must Remember This)
- Interview (like Joe Rogan/Tim Ferriss/Fresh Air)
- Fiction Storytelling (like Welcome to Night Vale, or Truth)
- Non-Fiction Storytelling (like This American Life, Criminal, Snap Judgement)
- Banter/Conversational (like Hello Internet, My Brother My Brother and Me)
- Comedy (like Comedy Bang Bang)
- Self help (like Where Shall We Begin)
- Educational (like the Audacity to Podcast or Smart Passive Income)
- Radio Drama, with voice actors, sound effects, and music (Like Night Vale)
- And a few others like religious, spiritual, sleeping etc.
As you start deciding on a format, try listening to a lot of shows that are in that format. Some storytelling has no music and is a single host narrating, while others have multiple voices and a lot of music. Find what you love and make something you would love to listen to.