We’ve all been there: things are going so well, ideas are flowing plentifully, and inspiration seems to come from nowhere and everywhere! You’ve planned your podcast episodes for the next few weeks, your guest line up is solid, and as far as planning for your podcast goes, things are sitting comfortably in autopilot. You’re in your zone, you’ve found your groove, you’re in your element…until you’re not!
We’ve all heard of writer’s block, and we’re all familiar with runners hitting that dreaded sticking point known as “The Wall”, but what happens when podcasters hit their own invisible barrier and can’t seem to find the needed inspiration to plan more content? And in all honesty, we’re not necessarily headphone laden Da Vinci’s in search of our own personal Mona Lisas! Don’t get me wrong, smiling muses are great and all, but our needs are much more simple – we just need reliable sources of inspo for our podcast episodes.
If you’re with me, and have found yourself in a creative drought at some point in your journey, let today’s article serve as a cool cup of water in the barren desert of ideas as we discuss 3 simple ways to find new topics for your podcast episodes.
Related read: Best Practices To Overcome A Creative Block
1. Check The News
This may seem like a no brainer – we’re inundated with headlines and barraged by 24 hour news cycles on the daily. Whether we actively seek it out through established news outlets, or that lovable (read: annoying!) aunt who likes to use her social media page as a podium to preach her own partisan platitudes, the news is out there and will oftentimes find us even when we’re not looking for it.
And according to the following statistics from Statista.com, people (including your listeners) are engaging with news media at unprecedented rates. The average daily time spent with digital media is expected to increase from 470 minutes (seven hours and 50 minutes) in 2020 to just under eight hours in 2022!1
So, why should you pay attention to the news? Why should you use the same, tired info and headlines? For one important reason – interpretation. People want to hear your interpretation of the events that matter to them. Whether local, national, or international headlines, your lens is unique and your voice is different.
News platforms now carry importance as social gathering spaces, as evidenced in online publications and comment sections. Wherever people are gathered, and stories are shared, there is opportunity to opine. Your listeners want to hear your opinion on the latest events.
Your voice and your perspective may help them to process information, and better understand what’s going on in the world around them. Because your voice is trusted and familiar to your listeners, you can help them to relate and connect to otherwise lifeless, distant narratives that may have more impact on them than they could realise.
And the best thing is, this is a really simple way to find inspiration – just watch or listen. When a story, a headline, or an event stands out to you, piques your curiosity, or even triggers an emotional response, lean into that. That’s your story! That’s your next podcast episode topic!
You could go through the news of the week, find big headlines, or obscure little known local reports, and give your take and opinion on them; dissect them and allow for deeper discussion to take place. Go a step further and invite a guest into the room and turn the solo discourse into a conversation – this is especially effective if the guest has a different opinion, stance, or worldview lens from that of your own. That’s the stuff that great podcast episodes are made of.
Related read: How To Consistently Create Valuable Content For Your Podcast
There are many benefits to an outward focused approach, but it can be just as effective to turn your gaze upon yourself, and look inward for the topic of your next episode…
2. Look Inward
This isn’t being self-absorbed, quite the contrary – this is leveraging your lived experiences to help others. Just think: what are your frustrations and victories? What are your pitiful pitfalls, and soaring successes? Those are podcast topics! If it’s of interest to you, there is a high chance it will be of interest to your listener base.
My biggest piece of advice here is to keep a notepad or a daily journal. Speaking, interviewing, and podcasting improves with practice, just like any other skill worth investing time and energy into. When you journal regularly (daily, in the most ideal of scenarios), you’re practicing the art of communicating your thoughts. This is the essence of podcasting. And if you use a journal to express your thoughts and ideas, it will invariably help improve your overall communication skills.
In a 2020 article on their tailored personal care website, American health care company Kaiser Permanente say the following about journaling as a source of inspiration:
“Leonardo da Vinci drew some incredible invention ideas in his journals. Like him, you can also use your journaling time to brainstorm or let your imagination run wild. The inspiration that may pop up while you’re writing or sketching might even surprise you.”
It’s true! You can surprise yourself with tons of ideas for podcast episode topics, just from the wonderful thoughts kicking around your very own brain!
Related Reads: 17 Journaling Tips for Beginners (And How to Start)
There’s also another surprising source of new topic ideas that is closer than you realise – your listeners!
3. Ask Your Listeners
The people who subscribe are your tribe. They spend time listening to the content you produce, and hey spend money purchasing the products you endorse. They trust your voice and value your thoughts. Why not reciprocate? Ask your listeners what they want to hear about! End your episodes with a request for topics, or offer your own personalized answer to individuals’ burning questions in your niche area of expertise. This is as simple as providing an email address for your people to write to, and letting the community do the rest.
Radio.co marketing expert, Mike Cunsolo, argues that there are few better ways to showcase your show than from another point of view. Listeners volunteering to share their own unique perspective can help to craft content otherwise unattainable. You can actively mine your subscription base for these ideas through a simple invitation. For instance, you could reach out and ask listeners to share their favorite recipes in the comments section of your foodie podcast, or invite listeners to post a picture from the favorite travel spot on your social media platform, then simply talk about these contributions on your next episode.2
Ta-daa! You now have simple, authentic, listener-generated topics. You could even use incentivization as a way to generate interesting content. Hint: giveaways work well! For example, offer workout gear as a prize draw on your fitness podcast for listeners who send in their personal fitness transformation stories. If your faithful listeners are all musos, try rewarding a music store gift card for the most embarrassing live performance story! Et voilà! You now have easy, genuine subscriber-driven content.
These are just a few ways you can turn podcast listeners into content collaborators for your show. “And this will enrich your community by connecting listeners to one another and not just the station itself.”, Cunsolo adds. This is a win-win podcasting situation, if I’ve ever seen one!
Check out this article on the 5 Steps To Create Listener-Driven Content For Your Podcast for more ideas on how to generate topics for podcasts episodes from ideas from your listenership.
Dear, dear creative…you needn’t continue beating your head against the proverbial wall, kicking yourself for not being able to come up with new, interesting content. Beating yourself up for shortcomings doesn’t work, I’ve done a great job at that and it’s borne me zero fruit. What is fruitful?
1. Simply staying aware of what’s happening in the world around you and sharing your expert opinion. 2. Paying attention to what’s happening on the inside of you, and sharing your honest opinion. And 3. Asking your listeners what’s happening in their world, and giving air to their opinion. The content produced from these practices is always refreshing, always helpful, and always new!
- Statistica.com: Media Use – Statistics & Facts: https://www.statista.com/topics/1536/media-use/#dossierSummary
- Radio.co: How to Turn Your Radio Listeners into Content Collaborators: https://radio.co/blog/turn-radio-listeners-into-content-collaborators