Step 2: Choose your topic

Show Design Guide

Amy Domestico avatar
Written by Amy Domestico
Updated over a week ago

Are you an expert in cooking? Movies? Books? Arthritis? Leverage your expertise, your passion and your interests to deliver a podcast that is valuable to listeners.

You want your show to be broad enough to attract lots of listeners but not so broad that it’s generic (e.g.  “Entertainment”).  If you want to talk about books, you might choose to focus on mysteries rather than every book under the sun. You must bring a unique perspective and provide value to listeners.

One way long-form content provides value to listeners is that it enables hosts to explore subjects at a different level of depth than what could be achieved with a short tweet, blog post, or TV show. In October 2014, NPR debuted a spinoff of This American Life called Serial - a show that follows one story through the course of an entire season. This is an extreme example of how deep you can dial-in on one topic. For example, if your topic is arthritis, you could do an overview of the basic signs, symptoms, treatments, drugs on the outset. As you learn about your listeners, you’ll air episodes that focus on one of these topics. For example, an arthritis podcast could air episodes about each symptom (fatigue, joint pain, swelling, mobility, etc), drug, or stage of treatment. As you dive deeper into each topic, you’ll uncover clinical research, strategies, and stories that will improve the quality of your listener’s life. 


You should think of your podcast as an ongoing conversation with your listeners. Here are a few tools you can use to see what types of conversations people are having about different topics and the search terms they use to find information about your topic. This knowledge can help you narrow your focus and pick individual episode topics.

Tool: Google Trends 

Strategy: Google Trends visualizes popular search terms. You can use it to compare the popularity of different topics you have in mind. Click around and see how many sub-topics you can find within a single area.

Tool:  Twitter and Hashtagify  

Strategy: On Hashtagify, search for broad topics. You’ll find related hashtags on Twitter. You should search for these hashtags on Twitter to see what kinds of conversations people are having.  

Tool:  iTunes search - Head to the “Podcasts” section of the iTunes store

Strategy: Take a look at other podcasts your ideal listener might like. These can inspire your topic, format, and outreach. Don’t be overwhelmed by the polish of these podcasts - they’ve had a lot of time and effort poured into them. With time, effort, and focus, your podcast might rise to the top of iTunes!

Let’s see how Ellen uses her listener persona, mind mapping, and research tools to brainstorm the high-level topic of her show. 

Case study

Take a look at the persona Ellen created for Joy. At this point, Ellen knows she wants to make a podcast for parents who love sports.

She uses to make a rough map of her ideas.

Ellen searches for “#peeweefootball” in Hashtagify. One of the related hashtags is “#proudmamma”. This gives her a rush of ideas about how to frame her show, possible show topics, and episode topics. Then, she heads to Google Trends and begins to search for the subtopics. Check out the search results for “Pee Wee Football” and “Little League” (you can find these at the bottom of the search results page). 

From this, Ellen can tell that people are wondering about safety, practice drills, and the rules. It’s important to note that many of these topics are too large to tackle in a single episode.

Armed with knowledge, Ellen can test sub-topics to see what her audience likes. Then, she can drill-down into a topic over a series of episodes until she has exhausted the topic and her audience is ready for something new. For example, Ellen might find out that her listeners like hearing about child development as it relates to football. She could do an episode about each age group and bring in specialists, doctors, coaches, and teachers. When she has exhausted the topics related to child development and football, she can figure out what else her audience is excited to learn. 

Action items

  1. Write down the topic you had in mind when you signed up for BlogTalkRadio

  2. Use one of the tools from the table to see what people are saying about your topic and searching for when they need more information 

  3. Draw a mind map or write simple bulleted list to figure out potential subtopics

  4. Use Google Trends, Hashtagify, or Twitter search to verify the popularity of your topics. 

  5. Write down the overall show topic you come up with. It’s ok if it’s messy! We’ll work with it in the next section.

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