You’ve probably heard that the podcast industry is growing at an alarming rate.
In 2006, just 22% of people had listened to a podcast. That number more than tripled to 70% by the end of 2019, making podcasting one of the most exciting channels to date.
In addition, Google now includes podcasts in their search results.
Whether you want to generate passive income or expand your brand’s marketing opportunities, starting a podcast is one of the best ways to do so.
However, while there are plenty of exciting opportunities on this platform, it’s still essential that you learn how to record high-quality audio and create a show that is different from others in your category. Therefore, one of the most common questions we get is:
How do I choose a podcast topic?
To help you solve this problem, below you’ll find podcast topics listeners love. You can review these smart frameworks and choose one that is unique to your category, designed for rapid growth, and aligns with your brand or passions.
Podcast topics for those with no audience
If you currently have no audience, potential listeners will probably ask why they should listen to your advice over an established influencer in the field.
Fortunately, these podcast topics will enable you to leverage other authoritative sources and grow your own voice.
Everybody likes to get a behind-the-scenes view of how something works, and teardowns are a great way to do that.
An example of a teardown episode is this one by Ecommerce Marketing School. The host brings on an eCommerce marketing expert that works with Shopify brands making up to $20 million in revenue.
During the episode, she uncovers what sites could be doing to increase conversions and mentions things like:
- The benefit of including shipping information on product pages
- Why you shouldn’t add text directly on images
- An effective method to generate more reviews
While this is a solo episode, it’s easy to see how this format could be used for an entire show. (The good news is that I couldn’t find an entire show that only does teardowns, so take advantage of that!)
Even if you don’t have an audience, you can perform the teardowns yourself without a guest.
You can also apply this to a B2C brand. For example, if you have a beauty podcast, you can do a teardown of a friend’s skincare regime and talk about how you would change it and why.
Record your stories
If you have a unique experience, you don’t have to have a large following to make it an engaging story.
For example, if you teach English in Japan, plenty of people would love to hear about your experiences with the culture, getting hired, finding a room, and much more.
The best way to differentiate yourself from anyone else with a similar podcast is by using your own individual experiences. People love getting advice from friends, and by using your own voice and stories, you can build the loyalty and trust of a friendship.
The stories you tell can be anything from an embarrassing story about how you figured out the trains to a time you accidentally confused two words that mean very different things.
Record your experiments
Some of the most popular podcast topics are just everyday people recounting exciting things they’ve done or tried.
For example, you may try a different kind of cuisine each week and report on it.
If you’re a B2B marketer, recording your experiments is a great way to engage a high-level audience.
If you’re a brand-new content marketer and want to create a content marketing podcast, you could take the advice of one influencer and report your results.
For example, you might try a content promotion tactic that a content marketing influencer, like Ann Handley, preaches. Then report on how it worked for you and what you would have done differently.
Since you’re talking about a content promotion that an influencer uses, you don’t have to prove that you are an expert because you’re essentially borrowing the influencer’s authority.
Invite other experts
Interviewing other experts is an excellent way to leverage their authority and audience to build your channel.
However, getting your first few high-level guests can be tricky if you don’t currently have an audience.
Nonetheless, it’s not impossible.
The best way to start is to leverage personal connections. For example, Eric Siu grew his Leveling Up podcast from zero to more than two million monthly downloads, and many of his early episodes were from relationships he already had.
Another great way to get experts is to interview people at conferences. You can connect with them in person and then ask to set up a time.
If you don’t have any personal connections and can’t attend conferences, you can always send personalized cold emails to mid-level influencers. Many of them are happy to tell their story, even if you don’t have a huge audience.
The key is to ensure that every guest you have on is just slightly more advanced than the other guests. This will enable you to get higher and higher level guests.
Study how to write excellent outreach emails with persuasive subject lines, and be sure to include genuine personalization. Here’s an example of a real cold email that won a quality podcast guest:
Curate great content
Another way to leverage the power of other influencers is to curate their ideas around a certain pain point.
For example, if you have a podcast about losing weight, you could have an episode on the best ways to weight train. However, rather than providing a few random tips of your own, gather the top tips from various celebrity trainers, athletes, and other influencers.
This also works for B2B businesses. For example, Noah Kagan of AppSumo has a YouTube channel (which is also repurposed to his podcast), and he does something similar.
As he doesn’t yet make millions of dollars on YouTube, he probably isn’t the most qualified person to teach someone else how to do so.
Instead, he showcases five businesses that make a lot of money on YouTube and breaks down why they are successful.
Another way you could do this for B2B is to source a variety of case studies and influencer quotes.
If you’re a content marketer struggling with content promotion, you could research tips from top experts. Then on your podcast, break down a unique tip from each expert and add color with some research.
For example, you could pull tips from a podcast hosted by influencers like Neil Patel and Eric Siu …
… and add in a few tips from case studies you’ve seen.
Partner with an established cohost
Finally, if you have industry relationships, you may be able to start your podcast with a cohost that already has some kind of following (Instagram, email list, etc.).
While you likely won’t be able to get anyone with a huge following, this can give you a great launchpad.
The key is to make it equally valuable to the person with the following, so you might offer to do the majority of the work.
For example, when the Marketing School podcast was born, one of the hosts had a much larger following than the other, so the host with the smaller following offered to do the majority of the work, like coming up with episode topics, publishing the episodes, and writing the show notes.
Podcast topics for those with an existing audience
If you currently have a following (an email list, website traffic, or a social following), starting a podcast should be relatively easy since you’ll be able to send your current audience traffic to the new channel.
Here are a few podcast topics that will generate tons of traffic if you already have an audience.
Invite high caliber guests
The majority of podcasts today are structured in an interview format.
This format works well because you receive free exposure to your guest’s audience, and they bring fascinating new insights to your listeners.
Podcasts like the Tim Ferriss Show and the Joe Rogan Experience are structured with this format, and it works really well.
While you may not be able to find their caliber of guests, you can likely connect with mainstream industry influencers in your niche.
The podcast topics you generate will usually be around your guest’s expertise, so just do your research ahead of time.
However, the structure is entirely up to you.
For example, you can choose to create a conversational podcast, as Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan do, or you can create something more structured.
The conversational style may be a little more challenging at first, so instead, you can opt for a structure like this one:
- Tell us about yourself
- How did you come up with your business idea?
- When did you make your first entrepreneurial dollar?
- What was one of the biggest challenges you faced in the early days of your startup?
- How do you set goals for your startup?
- What advice would you give to someone starting their own business today?
Provide actionable advice
Another great way to generate podcast topics is to provide advice on a current issue in your industry or one that you’re solving within your own life or company.
For example, Russell Brunson started Marketing in Your Car, which is essentially a platform where he discusses his own marketing-related learnings and challenges.
These episodes may be marketing lessons he’s learned through life or data-driven lessons.
It’s important to have an existing audience if you plan to do a show like this because these topics are only interesting to people familiar with Russell.
For example, a random person that doesn’t know of Russell Brunson likely won’t care what he learned at an airport in Amsterdam.
Many of the On Purpose episodes are also structured in a similar format with the host, Jay Shetty, talking about advice on relationships, happiness, finding your purpose, and more.
Jay Shetty is also well established and had a substantial following before he started his podcast.
If you’re starting a podcast with no following, recording an episode on something like “8 Ways to Deal With Negativity” and narrating it yourself might not be the best approach.
Unless you offer something no one else does, most people won’t have any incentive to listen to your podcast over any of the others that already have an episode on “X Ways to Deal With Negativity”:
But if you have a following of people who love you on other accounts (social, email, etc.), these episodes can be popular with people who already know you.
Finally, one more way to structure a podcast if you already have an audience is to accept listener submissions.
This not only more actively engages your audience, you also know you’re discussing the pain points your target audience feels — and you’ll never have to come up with a podcast topic again!
A great example of a podcast that accepts listener submissions is the U Up? podcast. During an episode, the listener submits a story about a relationship they are in and the hosts discuss the problem and try to advise the listener on what steps they should take.
Note that neither of the hosts are therapists, but rather they act as an objective third-party listener — similar to having drinks with a friend. So you can swipe this format regardless of your expertise!
Additional podcast topic questions
While these podcast topics should help you develop a solid strategy, you may still have some additional questions.
Here is an FAQ section to guide you in the right direction.
My podcast’s market is already saturated. Should I still do the podcast or pick a different subject?
Even if your industry has tough competition, you should still follow through if you’re passionate about the subject. The key is to differentiate — have a different viewpoint or method from other podcasts.
For example, if you want to host a marketing podcast, rather than just interviewing guests or giving your own advice, choose a different format like content curation.
Even though you’re entering a somewhat saturated market, you can still provide a refreshing perspective.
In fact, there are plenty of people who feel there aren’t many good podcasts on the subject:
However, if you aren’t truly passionate about the topic, know that it will be apparent in your work, so go after whatever you’re really passionate about and/or an expert on.
How do I know if my podcast has a target audience?
On the other end of the spectrum, you may have such a niche topic that you’re wondering if anyone would listen to your podcast.
The answer is probably yes.
However, it’s always best to check. First, do a quick Google search. If you’re doing a podcast on the plot holes in Harry Potter, Google shows that while there are a few podcasts on the subject, few seem to be active:
Therefore, consider browsing forums like Reddit and Quora to see if there is any interest. If there is, you’ll have an audience for your podcast.
Once you launch the podcast, you can go back to these Quora questions about Harry Potter plot holes and direct people to a relevant episode.
Nonetheless, when you first start your podcast, if you’re unsure whether it will have a big enough audience, invest in very basic sound equipment.
Once you have some traction, you can upgrade to higher quality equipment.
How long should each episode be and how often should I publish?
This is a great question that depends on the type of podcast you choose and how much time you plan to dedicate to it.
There is no standard podcast episode length or publishing frequency. Even if you break it down by industry, there are plenty of entrepreneurial podcasts that range from a minute to more than two hours, and even three hours.
For example, angel investor Naval Ravikant has a podcast that dives into happiness and mental health.
His episodes are just one-minute long, but he has more than 1,500 reviews and an engaged audience. He publishes an episode every few days, and his unique angle (other than his personal brand) is that it’s short and to the point.
Of course, one minute might be too short if you don’t already have a strong audience.
Therefore, you might instead opt for a 5–8 minute daily episode similar to the Marketing School podcast. They credit much of their success to the daily format of the show.
These short daily formats usually work well if you choose something like giving a piece of actionable advice or answering a question submission.
However, if you select a different podcast format like an interview, recording a teardown, or experiment, you may opt for a longer show.
For example, episodes of the Tim Ferriss Show usually range from 1–3 hours, and he releases two per week (which is quite a high frequency considering each episode’s depth).
How long should I try with my podcast topic before I give up?
If you’ve been working on your podcast for a while, you may be wondering if you should give up.
Ultimately, it’s important to understand why you’re setting out to create this podcast. If you’re just doing it to make money, there are other ways you can make money much faster.
Podcasting is a long game, and it will take time to build. However, if you find that you’re learning a lot by teaching people and interviewing experts, it’s still worthwhile even if you don’t have any followers.
The Leveling Up podcast by Eric Siu was only generating nine downloads per day a year after consistent work on it, though today (about six years in), it generates more than two million downloads.
First, be patient and give it some time. If, after about six months of consistent content, you still don’t have an audience, reevaluate these factors:
- Are there any other podcasts in your umbrella category?
- Is your content truly unique?
- Do you have a few people reaching out saying that your content is helping them?
If you know that there are other podcasts in your umbrella category, you should keep going with the podcast topic but consider changing your positioning.
Additionally, if there are other podcasts in the category and you don’t see traction, reevaluate if your content is truly unique.
Do a Google search of your latest podcast episode’s topic.
If you see that what you discussed in your episode is already said in at least 50% of the articles on Google, it’s probably not unique enough. (Note that while some of the concepts will be the same, you should have your own stories, case studies, etc. to give it a fresh perspective.)
Finally, if you have a few people reaching out to you raving about your content and podcast, keep going with it. You can always increase your frequency or improve your promotion strategies.
Grow personal relationships, one episode at a time
Today, there are very few channels that can capture an audience’s attention for more than a few seconds.
Even less common is a channel that can hold attention and isn’t saturated. In fact, I’d be interested to see any other channel that can do what podcasts can do.
They give you the opportunity to create a personal relationship with your audience and it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars to get started.
Now you should be ready to choose one of the podcast topics above and try it out for a few months — let us know how it goes.
Reader Comments (3)
David Arrieta says
Hey, it’s okay to be wrong, we are humans after all! But Google didn’t acquire Spotify, it was an April Fool’s joke.
Thanks for such a good article, keep up the hard work:)
Stefanie Flaxman says
Thanks for reading so carefully, David. We appreciate it. 🙂
This is such an interesting and inspiring article. I’ve been thinking about starting podcasts! so this has given me a lot to think about.
The research element that you have spoken about is very helpful too! thank you for sharing!
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