From You’ve Got Mail to Harry Potter, Hollywood has inspired us to use book stores in many different ways. But did you know that book stores are one of the best places to find your next podcast idea?
Heck, if you patiently hang out in busy bookstores, you can even meet your ‘future’ podcast listeners!
Picture a book store…
Thousands of books are arranged by genre or topic. You even have a dedicated section for the bestsellers. If you are particular about a genre or topic, head over to that section. Optionally, you can pick a crowded section and see what books people are looking for. Bestsellers give you an idea of what topics are popular.
Bookstores are the best places to find a topic for your podcast and even talk to potential listeners. You know that. But somewhere in the corner of your mind, you know that’s not enough. That’s why you are here reading this post. Because you don’t want to just find a topic for your podcast, but you want to start a podcast.
Table of Content
- Introduction – podcasts and book stores.
- What is a podcast idea?
- Step 1: Find your podcast topic.
- Step 2: Pick your target audience.
- Step 3: Nail your podcast narrative.
- Frequently asked questions.
If podcasts are books in a book store, podcast topics are just the names of sections in the book store. Book titles are then comparable to podcast ideas, and book chapters are episodes in that podcast.
But podcasters make a huge mistake.
There are two kinds of podcasters. The first is the rapid rabbit. They get so excited when they see a podcast topic, that they immediately jump right into producing their show and recording episodes.
The second kind of podcaster is the more common one. They look everywhere for podcast topics, feel overwhelmed and stuck, and then finally give up. Looking at the sheer number of podcasts in the world makes them anxious.
“There are over 1.7 million podcasts today. Who will listen to mine?”
Lady Gaga wouldn’t have existed had she thought that way!
So let’s get back to the book store example. How are podcast ideas different from podcast topics? How to go from a podcast idea to start a podcast?
What is a Podcast Idea?
A podcast idea is made up of three parts:
- Podcast Topic
- Target Audience
- Your Podcast Narrative
In the rest of this post, I’ll walk you through each of these three parts, and how to pick your podcast idea, find your target audience, and nail your podcast narrative.
By the end of this post, you will have nailed your podcast topic, a pretty good idea of your audience, and at least 5 episode ideas.
Your podcast’s topic is the highest classifier. It is the subject that your podcast will deal with. Some examples of podcast topics are cycling, triathlon, cooking, and content marketing. A podcast’s topic doesn’t reveal other details about the podcast.
This ain’t categories in Apple Podcasts.
Please don’t confuse a podcast topic to the categories in Apple Podcasts. The latter is something Apple Podcasts uses to categorize podcasts in its directory.
For example, Business or Marketing are not topics on Apple Podcasts. They are categories and sub-categories respectively. Apple Podcasts uses categories to help podcast listeners find content easily.
Why should you pick a good podcast topic?
Picking a podcast topic helps you and your podcast’s listeners by establishing high-level clarity on what the podcast is about (and not).
Someone interested in listening to a podcast on political history is only looking for podcasts on that topic and not marketing podcasts.
How to find a topic of interest for your podcast?
One of the best places to look for podcast topics is Wikipedia. But that’s like stating the obvious! How do you know which topic to pick? How can you filter-out tens or hundreds of thousands of topics to pick your podcast topic?
Let’s look at simple but effective ways to do that. The following two approaches will let you stay in control of the idea you pick than gambling with the mighty Wikipedia.
- Approach #1: List topics of interest to you.
- Approach #2: Composite topics approach (use the podcast topics generator tool)
A good podcast topic is one that you feel connected to. Looking around you is the best place to get started. We usually associate ourselves with things that we like and are connected to. Some words we use to describe these are: passion, hobby, interest, and activities.
How to find topics of interest to you?
One of the best places to look for podcast topics is your bookshelf or your Kindle collection. Here are some other places to look for podcast topics:
- Look at your daily activities and routines.
- Check your calendar, if you are someone that schedules everything.
- Podcasts you listen to.
- YouTube channels you have subscribed to.
- Email newsletters you have subscribed to.
- Sports you play, activities you do.
- Certifications, degrees, and courses you signed up for.
Also, look for topics related to these topics. Let’s see how this works with an example, shall we?
Here’s a little exercise I did with a friend. The below table contains all the topics and related topics he came up with.
|Cooking||Baking, Home decor|
|Email Marketing||Copywriting, Software Tools|
|Facebook Ads||Google Ads, Behavioral Psychology|
This approach should get you started with finding your podcast topic. But, it has one limitation in that it’s so one-dimensional. That’s why we have the second approach.
This is a creative approach to finding your podcast topic. As the name goes, this approach to finding your podcast topic relies on combining two topics. Here are some ways you can use this approach:
- Combine two topics from your first approach.
- Juxtapose a topic with a category in Apple Podcasts.
- Put together a topic with a podcasting style.
Try permutations and combinations of the above three. You are sure to find a unique podcast topic.
If you’re interested, here’s a spreadsheet with over 450 composite podcast topic ideas, along with a ready list of Apple Podcast categories, podcast styles. This was captured during one of our live workshops. Click the link below to share this blog post and get access to this spreadsheet (no email required).
While I’m tempted to call it a “podcast topics generator”, the truth is that the approach in this spreadsheet makes YOU a podcast topics generator.
So go ahead and use it to get started. Please don’t forget to use approach #1 to list down your topics before you started using this sheet.
Who do you want to speak to every time you sit in front of your microphone? Who do you want to help and serve? Who do you want to have as your podcast’s target audience? Please be specific.
Here are some examples of target audience:
- people who are thinking of starting a business for the first time
- stay-at-home dads
- biohacking couples
- doting mothers who play extreme sports.
Step 1: Let’s start by finding a broader audience for your podcast.
No matter who you are, you should have access to people that have similar interests as yours. Let’s do this exercise together.
|Make a list of||Example|
|People you have access to.||An email list.|
|People from a community you were once a part of.||If you were once a chef, you probably are still a part of some chef communities|
|People from a community you understand.||If you are a teacher, you probably understand other teachers and their challenges really well|
|People who are similar to the person you once were.||Maybe you were a chef in the past.|
Step 2: Now let’s narrow your podcast audience by picking only that audience that complements your topics of interest.
Step 3: Choose a category on Apple Podcasts that’s most relevant to your new podcast idea.
In the table below, I show you how steps 1, 2, and 3 play out with an example:
- The first column contains a list of people from the first step.
- Column #2 contains the list of topics from the second step.
- The third column contains the categories on Apple Podcasts that best fit my audience.
Here’s how it looks:
|List of People||Filter by Topics of Interests||Category (Apple)|
Some Target Audience Examples:
Based on the above exercise, here are some possible target audience outcomes:
- Working moms of kids aged between 4 and 10 that spend time watching Netflix and sipping bourbon.
- Entrepreneurial home-bakers with kids
- Doting dads that love bourbon
As you see in this exercise, I started with a broad set of people that I can relate to. I then used the topics from the earlier exercise (podcast topics) along with categories on Apple Podcasts to narrow down my podcast’s target audience.
The third and final part of a good podcast idea is the narrative. A good narrative acts as a bridge between the topic in your head and your audience.
Your goal at this stage is to establish that bridge and use that to break down your podcast idea into episode ideas.
Podcasting is storytelling.
No matter what your podcast is about, you are telling a story to your audience. The story can be just an idea, a how-to type teaching, an event, or something else. And the way you tell these stories is one episode at a time.
By breaking down the idea in your head into easily consumable stories (episodes) you connect with your podcast listeners. And that’s what you’ll be doing in the next few minutes.
If you’ve reached this point, you’ve done a great job thus far! This is the home stretch. So hang on tight, as we wrap up your podcast idea.
How to find your podcast narrative?
People are busy telling stories about the world around them. As a podcaster, your job at this stage is to understand what’s going on inside your ‘future’ podcast listeners’ heads.
Your goal is to tell stories to your podcast listeners that are congruent with their believes and ideas.
Let’s do this step-by-step:
- List down stories your listeners are telling themselves.
- Identify their goals.
- Breakdown the goals into easy steps.
- Create one or more episodes for each step.
Now let’s look at these steps in greater detail.
Let’s say your podcast listeners are busy new mompreneurs. Here are some stories they are telling themselves:
- “My schedules are crazy! I’m having to jump between finding clients, feeding my baby, cooking food, and making money!!”
- “On this accounting software is so hard to use! Wish I didn’t have to deal with any of this! I just want to feed my baby and do client-related work!!”
- “How am I supposed to know who booked my time? Oh, this website thing is crazy! I thought my email marketing was all set up. Looks I now need to do a TON more!”
I highly recommend you create a good persona of your audience before you went deeper into this exercise.
And now that you understand the stories they are telling themselves it’s time you identified their goals. Here are some examples of goals for busy new mompreneurs:
- Strike a good work-life balance.
- Fix my marketing funnels.
- Learn and fix my email marketing.
- Find and join a mompreneur mastermind.
These are just a few I can think of. I’m sure you can list down a lot more! Now let’s see if we can pick one of these and break it down into smaller steps!
Let’s take the third goal and break it down into smaller steps.
- Learn and fix my email marketing
- Find good content to learn email marketing.
- List down email marketing tools
- Read email marketing tool reviews.
- Signup for an email marketing course.
- Start an email newsletter
- Find email newsletter swipe files.
- Setup my email newsletter funnel
You can keep breaking down the goal first, and rearrange them in a sequence.
But remember I told you that you will have at least 5 episode ideas by the end of this exercise?
The “Wikipedia Trick” to breaking down podcast topics.
The content on Wikipedia, as you know, is curated and updated by people around the world. And because of this, you can find the best managed-content in this place. Wikipedia when used as a tool can guarantee you at least 5 episodes for most topics!
Go to a Wikipedia page on the topic (check out the Wikipedia page for Email Marketing) and you’ll see a neat breakdown right there.
This is the last step in this process. Depending on whether your podcast idea is for an interview-based podcast or a solo show, you can now start to create your episode ideas.
Here are some episode ideas for the same example we used before:
- How to set up your first email newsletter funnel?
- Email Marketing 101 mini-series (multiple episodes).
- How I went from scratch to a 100K business with just Email Newsletters?tofffff
Here are some questions I’ve been asked in most of my podcasting workshops. I’m sharing them here, so you have the answers here too.
Q: I already have a podcast. Should I still do these exercises?
A: It’s wonderful that you have a podcast! Nonetheless, I strongly recommend you consider doing these exercises. It helps us to pay closer attention to our audience and interests every once in a while.
Q: My podcast already gets me a lot of listeners. Should I still do this?
A: First-off, congratulations! It’s a good feeling to *not* be speaking to an empty room. But how well do you know your podcast listeners? Who are they? How many of your listeners are subscribers?
Nailing your podcast idea – including the topic, audience, and narrative will help you create episodes more intentionally. You will then be able to create a well-planned editorial for your podcast, plan marketing and promotion campaigns for your podcast with confidence.
Q: I don’t know if this will work for my podcast niche.
A: This approach will work for any niche. I have worked with podcasters in all sorts of niches – women’s health, marketing, coaching, nutrition, and many more for people and brands. If you have a specific question, leave a comment and I will personally help you.
Q: I tried this for my podcast. But it’s not working.
A: One of the biggest reasons I’ve seen podcasters struggle is because they haven’t niched enough. It could be that you’ve niched too much, or too little. Leave a comment with a specific question and I’ll be able to answer your question.
Q: I just finished doing all of this. Can I start recording for my podcast?
A: I’m glad you feel confident starting your podcast! I highly recommend you follow up and create your podcast outline first. Then, create a podcast editorial calendar for your show. Do read this complete step-by-step article on starting your podcast so you don’t miss anything!
Q: Is the podcast topics generator a software tool?
A: Nooo! It’s a simple spreadsheet. But it works like magic. Once you learn how to use this, you can use the same podcast topics generator to help you generate ideas for anything – blog posts, businesses, name it. Try it and see.
Q: Can I use the podcast topics generator to help me come up with topics specific to my podcast audience?
A: Yes. In fact, you will see topic categorization like interests and people in the spreadsheet. They are meant to bring in that element of your podcast listener.
Q: Is this podcast topics generator spreadsheet updated?
A: The sheet was last updated in December 2020. When I make future updates and have new techniques, I usually share them in my newsletters. If you’ve signed up to my email list anywhere on the site, you should get my newsletters too.
Your Podcast Topic Idea
Good podcast topics are those that resonate well with a specific audience and get them hooked on with a compelling narrative. But first, it’s more important for you to be comfortable with that topic. A comfortable topic is better than a creative new topic.
It’s now time for you to work on your podcast topic. Use the podcast topics generator spreadsheet if you’d like. Leave a comment to share your topic, or with a question. I’ll see you in the comments!