Whether you're a new podcaster with high hopes or a veteran who wants to polish tarnished subscriber numbers, the same rule applies: You must podcast what you are passionate about. Choose a topic you love. If you're already podcasting, switch gears. It's better to lose listeners because of a voluntary change toward a direction you're passionate about than to lose them because your interest (and therefore your podcast) has gone stale. In the first case, you'll undoubtedly attract new listeners; in the second case, you'll just keep losing them. If you don't podcast about something you are passionate about, your podcast will crash and burn.
Before you set yourself in front of your mic, sit down and think. What are you passionate about? Seems like a silly questionyou know what you're passionate about, of course. However, can your passion sustain a podcast that will go on for (hopefully) years?
The podcasting team that makes up The Signal, a podcast dedicated to the cancelled TV show Firefly and its movie, Serenity, had a finite number of shows planned. The TV show died after 15 episodes, despite a rabid cult following, so the discussion topics were limited to those episodes and the movie. The podcast ran as a marketing technique (independent from the movie studio) for the movie, and ended after the movie was released. The following was so intense that the podcasting team planned a second season, butand this is the important partthey took some months off to plan the content.
The Signal is a perfect example of people acknowledging that their passion has limits. If your passion is the NFL, then you are assured limitless topics. If your passion is the career of Lawrence Taylor from the New York Giants, then you might want to present it as a podcast in three or so parts and then call it a day or move on to another topic.
Regardless, examine your passion to discover whether it has legs. And don't discount something you think might not appeal to the public at large. The Knitcast (www.knitcast.com) is simply a podcast about knitting, but it has an impressive following. There are people at home with fringe hobbies who lack entertainment or information centering on their hobby, except for perhaps an expensive quarterly magazine. If you make a podcast about it, these people will come.
So find your passion. Look at your hobbies, what you read, what you watch, what excites you. Search for that passion on one of the many directories online and see what's already out there. Listen to the podcasts. Are they missing anything you'd like to see discussed about the topic? Is it something you can talk about? Find the holes that need to be filled. If there's something you want to hear about, it's likely someone out there wants to hear it too. Is someone not presenting your political point of view? Is your favorite sports team not represented? Are people completely ignoring your hobby? And if not, are they ignoring your favorite part of it?
Think about your likesor even your dislikesand think of all the things associated with them. You can use the time-honored bubble method here (see Figure 4.1). Write your topic down on a piece of paper and then draw several lines out from it. Each of the lines should point to another subtopic.
Figure 4.1. An example of using the bubble method to illustrate the podcast I Should Be Writing.
For example, you could say your passion is gardening. But gardening encompasses an entire range of topics, so what aspect of gardening do you enjoy? Maybe you like orchids, tomatoes, Venus fly traps, azaleas, pyracanthas, petunias, forget-me-nots, and bonsai. You could have a general gardening show, focusing on each of those topics for one or two shows each. This gives you 16 show topics right from the start.
On the other hand, someone may already be doing that, and you think they do it better than you ever could. Or it may happen that one of those subcategories really entrances you. Either way, you can form a highly focused podcast based on just one plant. Your tomato (or vegetables in general) podcast can start in the early spring and go through the growing season, and afterward you can discuss preservation techniques, planning for the next year, or even go into history, anecdotes, or, heck, take a couple of months off. Most TV shows don't go every week, you can take a break, too.
You can use your podcast to interact with your audience, inviting them to join you in your passion. Instruct your listeners to each buy an orchid from a chain hardware store and teach them how to nurture it, using a blog or mailing list to keep up with the listeners' progress. (More on using blogs and mailing lists later in the book.)
Of course, you don't want to get too refined. If you take more subcategories, such as an entire podcast built around the foods a fly trap will and will not eat, then you may find you've podcasted yourself into a corner.