So You Want to Do a Podcast
Talking into a microphone and recording your voice is a fun hobby that requires only a small investment, and anyone can do it! (Whether or not your podcast catches on and develops any sort of an audience is another story.) What will be your podcast topic? On what subject can you provide some sort of unique input where another person would consider listening? Or are you simply an entertaining person who can weigh in on all sorts of subject and your addicting personality will shoulder the load? Read on to discover some tips to help you choose a podcast topic.
Items to Consider
- What subjects are you passionate about?
- On what subjects are you an expert?
- If you’re not an expert, how much research are you willing/able to do?
- Is your show idea unique? It doesn’t have to be, but if there are many other shows on the same topic, how would you differentiate your show?
- Could your topic have enough potential content where you could put together a new show every week or so?
- How broad or narrowed is your show topic? A show about food could appeal to millions, but may be too broad to attract an audience. A show specifically about broccoli farming is a topic that could easily attract a niche audience, but that audience would be extremely limited. There’s no right or wrong answer; it’s just something you have to consider.
- If you’re thinking you’d one day like to monetize your show, could your show topic find sponsors?
- Will your show topic conceivably get you into any trouble? Like, if your boss, spouse, parents, or federal government listened to this podcast, how big of trouble would you be in?
The True Story of How We Chose Our Podcast Topic
In 2011, a friend and I did a podcast in Minnesota called The Shed Party Show. We broadcasted it live using UStream.tv, which at the time was a pretty new concept. We sat in my friend’s basement every Wednesday night and rambled on about whatever topics were on our minds for two hours. Topics ranged from current events to local sports to our own lives. We jacked a phone into the soundboard and took calls from friends. The only people our podcast appealed to were people who knew us personally, which was fine; we were just doing it for fun. It may have continued on much longer, but I abruptly moved away after a dozen episodes.
In 2017, I really needed a new hobby and wanted to start another podcast, but I knew if it was ever going to develop any sort of an audience, it had to have an actual topic, subject, or theme this time. My wit and charm alone could only take a show so far. The single topic I am most passionate about and could talk all day about is Minnesota Twins baseball, but there are already many popular Twins podcasts, it’s already a fairly niche audience, and there’s no way I would be able to come up with unique content that those shows didn’t already cover. There was no room for another Twins podcast.
What else was I passionate about where I could provide some sort of unique insight? I racked my brain for weeks. Parenting? No, been done to death. Moving cross-country? Well, maybe, but I didn’t see a whole series devoted to that. Office politics? Maybe, but the likelihood of co-workers hearing the podcast was too high. US geography? Maybe, but it would require more research than I had time for.
Finally, I landed on a plausible new idea—a podcast where I would eat and review new candy and have interviews with people in the candy biz. And I would call it CandyBiz! I even had a theme song recorded using someone on Fiverr and had an interview lined up with someone from the Pearsons candy company. I envisioned that, once the show took off, candy companies would start mailing me samples to review. It was going to be awesome! Once I really started storyboarding the first episode, though, I ran into a few important obstacles. 1) Such a show would really need to be in video format. Can you imagine only listening to someone eat candy? The chewing sounds and crinkling of wrappers without any video would be awful. 2) Anything people want to know about candy is already out there, either on Wikipedia or that Marc Summers show on the Food Network. 3) I don’t actually know a damn thing about candy.
Disappointed, I ditched the CandyBiz idea. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to come up with a podcast topic.
Days later, as I sat at work, I overheard someone asking a very simple question. “How do you react when you look over and make eye contact with someone across the room?” A light bulb went off! I would start a how-to blog and podcast dedicated to answering only trivial social reaction and interaction-related quandaries, nothing technical. How to choose something. How to react to something. How to get out of doing something. That day, I sat down at a coffee shop with my laptop and churned out the first three blog posts. The beauty behind this idea, in my mind, was that the posts require no research because there are no correct answers, only suggestions from personal experience, and there are an endless number of topics. This idea really appealed to me.
As the blog began to grow, I started shifting focus towards starting up the podcast. I asked around to see who was interested in being a podcast co-host, and good friend Bart Christoff quickly emerged as the best option. Not only would he be a strong podcast personality, but his background in digital marketing could help the show grow. And again, he didn’t need a degree in psychology—everything we would talk about would just be our own opinions or from our personal experiences. No one I know has more funny and jaw-dropping stories than Mr. Christoff.
Our How To Do That podcast format is perfect for us because of the following reasons.
- We have a lot of funny personal stories to weave into the show.
- We enjoy helping people answer everyday trivial questions.
- We can “shoot from the hip” for most of our how-to questions because they mostly relate to everyday social situations where our answers stem from personal experience or opinion.
- There are endless numbers of topics to choose from.
- Our show could theoretically appeal to anyone.
This isn’t to say our podcast has become a smash hit and we’re getting thousands of downloads and have sponsors. We’ve recorded thirteen episodes and are averaging about 35 downloads per week. But it has accomplished a few things.
- It’s fun for us.
- We will never, ever run out of show topic ideas.
- It does in fact appeal to people beyond our immediate family and friends.
- It is marketable, providing future opportunities for advertisements.
With that, I will say good luck in your podcast endeavor! Hopefully it either is fun, educational, or profitable for you. Have anything else to add? Leave a comment!