As the number of podcasts on Apple Podcasts swells over 1.7 million active podcasts in 2021, and as Spotify showed some serious interest in podcasting in 2019, a lot of people are working on making podcasts discoverable. On the other hand, aspiring podcasters are looking for podcast ideas to start their podcasts. In this post, I help podcasters create meaningful podcasts by helping them shape their podcast ideas from scratch.
In another post, I showed you how to outline your podcast. I hope that post really helped you move forward with your idea. But if you are stuck saying “I don’t have podcast ideas”, this post (and this other one) is for you. In this post, I will help you come up with podcast ideas that are unique to you.
An aspiring podcaster asked me this question recently
“I want to start a podcast on gadgets. But there are already so many podcasts on gadgets. Should I look for some other topic?”
This is a classic question I’ve seen a lot of early entrepreneurs ask too. “Should I think of a business in food tech or should I explore another idea I have in sports tech?”.
In other words, should I change my topic or idea just because there is a stiff competition or the space appears to be over-saturated?
Here’s my answer.
Did the Backstreet Boys stop singing because of Boyzone?
Or, did Michelangelo stop painting because of Leonardo Da Vinci?
You get the point? Podcasting, like painting or music, is a form of expression of thoughts. And like any artistic expression, everyone is unique.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail. Shall we?
Take a notebook or your diary and get ready to do some exercises.
You are unique in a lot of different ways. Not just fingerprints or retina scans, but your perspectives of the world and everything inside or outside it is unique.
Let’s do a simple exercise now. Pull out a notebook and on a fresh page write down:
Questions for which you are looking for an answer.
If you have any podcast topic on your mind, forget it for a moment. As people, we see and have opinions on a lot of things around us. And, we have a lot of questions too.
For example, I believe that people who get lost chasing careers and money should take time to do something they are interested in…perhaps practice a hobby or play a sport.
I also have so many questions about how super successful people manage to keep their health and family goals intact.
What are the questions for which you are looking for an answer?
What do you care about deeply?
We are living in a distracted world today. But still, are there times when you realize yourself connecting deeply with an issue, a subject, or a topic?
Maybe it is pollution or climate change or child trafficking. Are there topics or issues you connect with deeply? When you read something about it, or someone talks about it, you feel like speaking up. Is there something like that?
Write down topics, issues, or subjects that you deeply care about in your notebook.
What made you think of starting a podcast?
This is the third and final question to help you find your voice. Why did you think of starting a podcast in the first place?
Maybe it’s because you just like the idea of speaking into a microphone and broadcasting it to the world. Or, perhaps it’s because you think it’s the right way to connect to new customers for your business. Or maybe you are comfortable speaking than writing a thousand words on a blog.
Whatever it is, write the answer to this question. If you feel like you don’t have a clear answer, it’s okay. Write down a long winding sentence? Sure, do it.
Don’t look for perfection in the process. Let the idea evolve through this process.
Another great perspective that will help you in finding your uniqueness is to start with your ideal podcast listener in mind. I know you don’t have an audience yet, but you probably know who would be interested in your topic.
Who are they?
Imagine you had a chance to speak to a bunch of those people. Where would you find them? What would they be doing?
Are they students? Maybe retired people? Or, maybe musicians? Who are they?
Imagine one person who fits the description above and give the person a name, so you can refer to them easily. Let’s say we call him John.
What do their typical days look like?
If you were to ever meet John and get to see his life from close quarters, what would you see him do through the day?
Who does he live with? How does he commute to work? Does he have pets? How do his mornings look?
Write down all of this in your notebook.
What questions are haunting their minds?
Now imagine you got to speak to John for some time. He’s got comfortable with you. What is he thinking about?
Is he thinking about work all the time? Is he struggling with productivity? Or, balancing work and family? Is he always thinking about his Sunday golf lessons?
Write down whatever it may be.
What are their needs, fears, desires, and concerns?
Finally, write down everything you think, John needs. Does he secretly wish he had something? What are his biggest fears?
Great. Write them all down. Because these are the answers that will help you discover your podcast audience.
Now that you have a good understanding of your ideal podcast listener and yourself. Think about the best way you’d like to spend your time every week or every fortnight recording a podcast.
What conversations or topics would you enjoy talking about? Would John enjoy listening to them? Even better, would John be patiently waiting for your episodes every week?
Ideas are starting to pop up?
One of the ways creativity happens is when you fuse different ideas. In the activity so far, you tried to do exactly that. You tried to meaningfully fuse relevant ideas.
I discuss this process in a lot more detail in this article on unlocking podcast ideas. In that, I explain how to create composite podcast topics. I even created a podcast topics generator spreadsheet to go along with that article.
The more time you spend doing this exercise, the better your ideas get. (I love this book Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward De Bono, to get more tips on creative thinking.)
Now let’s add two more perspectives to the mix.
You can spend the time inside your podcast listeners’ ears in multiple meaningful ways. Of the many podcasts out there, below are the most common podcast types:
Monologues / Commentary
Now you can choose to go solo on a topic that John cares about. This is the Monologue style. There is no one else talking to you in these episodes.
It could be a commentary about something you care about, or a news style, a how-to style episode. If this fits your personality and that of your audience (John), you will find this a lot interesting.
This is one of the most common kinds of podcasts. You typically have another person joining you on the show, to whom you ask questions.
It’s can turn into a conversation, but largely it’s you who is steering the conversation with your style of inquiry.
If you are interested in starting an interview-based podcast, I strongly suggest you read this article where I talk about the 6 kinds of interview-based podcasts you must consider. After you did that, I also suggest you follow that up with another article I wrote recently on the 5 key ingredients that the best interview-based shows have. These will help you further refine your podcast idea.
Many podcasts have taken the storytelling approach. These podcasts have a lot of soundscaping and attempt to bring a story out in full or part, in every episode.
You are attempting to immerse the listener (John) through a story with highly descriptive talking accompanied by sound.
Banter / Freestyle / Conversation
Finally, it’s the freestyle conversation. This is just like the interview style, with the exception that the conversation takes place between the hosts.
There are no guests (largely) and the show’s strength lies in the chemistry between the hosts in conversation.
Are you still stuck? Let me try and add some inspiration. I reviewed the Top 50 podcasts on Apple Podcasts in Business to reveal the types of podcasts people are creating. Here’s a list of the kinds of shows you will see in the Top 50 List on Apple Podcasts (United States):
- Simplification / Breaking down complex ideas (Planet Money)
- Deeper / Diverse Insights (Exchanges at Goldman Sachs)
- Interviews (How I Built This with Guy Raz)
- Reality Show (The Pitch)
- Coaching (AskPat 2.0)
- Discussion (Jocko Podcast)
- Thought Leadership (HBR Ideacast)
- Storytelling (Startup Podcast)
- News (This Morning with Gordon Deal)
- Education (The $100 MBA Show)
These are 10 different kinds of podcasts you’ll see in the top 50 podcasts listed under business on Apple Podcasts. I’ve mentioned one show for each podcast type in brackets. Do visit Apple Podcasts and check some more podcasts to get more podcast ideas.
Were you able to come up with a few ideas for your podcast?
Yes, I’ve got a few ideas now.
That’s awesome! I suggest you read my post on getting started with planning your podcast. In that post, I walk you through some of the most important aspects of your podcast including naming your podcast, schedule, length of each episode, tools, website, etc.
Use this Podcast Topic Generator.
If you are still a little lost and missed my cue earlier, I suggest you read this post. In that, I explain step-by-step how to find your podcast topic, podcast listeners, and narrative. I also have created a podcast topic generator spreadsheet that will help you come up with podcast ideas rapidly.
Then outline your podcast.
Once you have nailed your podcast idea, I highly recommend you read my post on how to outline your podcast. In that, I help you think through your podcast in greater detail. Between both this article and the one on outlining your podcast, it is sure to help you get the much-needed clarity to help you start a podcast.
Some podcasting courses and training.
If you need more help, I invite you to join Free Your Voice, my free 4-week podcasting course. You will learn how to come up with the best podcast idea and go all the way to launching your podcast and also promoting and marketing it. I recently also wrote detailed reviews on some paid podcasting courses from the world’s best podcasters. Do check if they interest you.
I keep updating the course with resources, tips, and tricks now and then. Please join me inside and I consider it my highest privilege to help you put together the best podcast you ever could!
Be truly You.
If there is one thing I want you to remember from this article, it’s this – You are unique. Make sure your podcast reflects your uniqueness. That’s what will help your podcast stand out amongst an ocean of so many podcasts out there.
What is one thing you learned about in this post? Was it about podcast ideas, or audience, or was it something else? Please leave a comment and let me know. If this post helped you pick a good podcast topic, please leave a comment and let me know what your topic is. If you have questions, leave them too. I will answer them personally.
If you’d like to receive more tips, strategies, and training, do subscribe to my newsletter wherever you see a subscription form on this website. I write them once a week, and often times these emails turn into a 1-1 conversation. Do join!