For some aspiring podcasters, picking something to talk about is the biggest challenge of them all.
Matthew: This question came in from Joan, and it’s an interesting one, Colin, because a lot of people call at the podcast and because they have a topic in mind, but then there’s also a large majority of folk that come in to podcast, and because they want to do a podcast but they don’t have a topic. When you arrived in podcast without your topic what are the first steps that you should take in your opinion?
Colin: I don’t know. I always find it quite confusing when people first get in touch with that. They just want to start a podcast but they don’t know what to speak about. I suppose it makes sense doesn’t it? People can get into their medium and then decide that they want to contribute to it and think, “Oh, what’s the best thing to speak about?” Actually, often it’s not that they don’t have a topic to speak about, it’s that they’ve got loads of passions, or lots of things they’re interested in or lots of work topics and they just aren’t sure just which one to choose. It’s like amongst a various choice.
For me, the first thing that I think about is, this the cliché isn’t it, find your passion, so what is it that you’re most interested in. Why did you chose to start talking about audio drama?
Matthew: We were already making audio drama and it just made so much sense because we were podcasting not to make a podcast about doing it, and yeah, it was something that we were passionate about and it was something that we saw would benefit ourselves and benefit the small community that we knew at that point, so it worked out really well for us.
Colin: Why not football or your various other hobbies?
Matthew: Yeah. I don’t know if I can answer that. I’ve thought about podcast on all sorts of things. There’s always topics that come up that you think that would make a great podcast, but when you get a bit more experience you realise the work involved in doing a podcast, you don’t want to end up with ten not very good shows. It’s better to do one good show, isn’t it?
Colin: Yeah, and focus on it. I think everybody’s got a topic they can talk about. There’s always something that you talk about more to your friends than anything else. It’s more about finding the focus of that topic, isn’t it? Finding what you’re going to focus on within that niche. For me, the first place that starts often is, it’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s what is the pain that’s out there, so I always talk about the mountain biking show that I do, which is just a hobby of mine. It’s a passion of mine, and I wanted talk about mountain biking, and I was trying to figure out, what particular thing can I concentrate on.
The thing that people always ask me about when it comes to mountain biking is the kit. It’s always about what’s the best wheels to get these days, or what’s the best gear set to get, or you know what the new shiny, fancy bits? That’s kind of what I started focusing on, on the show because it was the most commonly asked question within that niche. It’s the problem that follows you back. It’s the stuff that really causes people pain because they’re trying to figure out how to get about a bike how to improve their bike, but they cannot navigate their way through all of this various, you know hundreds and dozens of choices out there to build up grade. That’s always the first bit isn’t it. Finding that pain, I think.
Matthew: Do you think it comes down motivations of whether you want to be a business with your podcast where you want to make money or whether it’s just a hobby, or do you think now a days these things are so overlapped that you know it’s pretty much just the same thing?
Colin: Yeah. I think for the people that are coming into it as a hobby, a lot of them want to turn into a business. A lot of them want to talk about what they are passionate about anyway. They’ll think about how to monetize it through sponsorship and things like that, but then you’ve got those people, they’re just talking about the stuff they find interesting. They find fun. They’re passionate about, but then there’s a whole other group of people who come into it with the main view that it’s going to be to promote a business. In that case, you’re not coming at it necessarily because it’s something you love, not something that you’re really passionate about, it’s something that you love to work in maybe?
I think then it’s more important to find that pain, to find that real problem that people struggle with. Has to be something that really keeps people up at night, it bugs them, it’s something that you say you can solve it for them then they’re going to jump on it basically. That’s what is going to grab people in and drag them into listening to your show, isn’t it? If you can prove you can really fix something for them.
Matthew: You think that this solving a problem thing, is it not enough just to have something that you want to talk about? Or again does that come down to your motivations?
Colin: Well, there’s various different problems isn’t there, there’s a problem where you’re teaching, so with the mountain biking one it was talking about how to upgrade you bike, how to navigate all the bits and parts and all that kind of stuff. Another problem is just being bored I suppose. There’s lots of entertainment shows out there so finding a topic. I think a big part of it is to sell the benefits isn’t it, if you have that problem that you’re solving so, if it’s entertainment for example, obviously it’s harder to find the particular problem. It’s more about, if you’re bored come and listen to us we’re funny, this is why. You’re selling the benefits, it’s also the particular reasons why.
Okay, to go back to the problem solution thing. Problems, you’ve got a problem, you’ve found the pain you finding and we’re going to figure out how to solve it. Here’s the solution, that’s the benefits that you’re selling to the people, but then the next step if you’re a teaching show or a business show or anything like that, it’s why you are uniquely served to solve it, so why people should listen to your show as opposed to other people’s shows.
I think that applies more to the entertainment niche more than anything else because then suddenly you’re selling yourself. If it’s entertainment, why are is the topic you’re choosing out most interesting to listen to? It’s tricky that way because in a lot of ways that’s very subjective so it’s trickier with entertainment. That’s the one you can’t really answer this black and white. I think still, there’s still a definitely a bit of a problem solution pair in there, and definitely why you are unique to that.
Matthew: Just to get us wrapped up then, looking towards if someone’s got a couple of topics in their mind you might want to sit down and jot out a few potential episodes. We talk about seasons here a lot of the podcast hosts, so you’re looking at some common themes that they could batch into seasons? What sort of advice would you have on that front?
Colin: I know you always talk about it, that’s when of your tests that you go through the people you work with is, how many episodes can you think up in ten to fifteen minutes, something like that.
Matthew: Yeah, aye, if you can only think of two then that’s a bit of a warning bell isn’t it?
Colin: Most people that come in they can think up the episodes, I think that helps with topic as well, doesn’t it? If you tell them you want to talk about mountain biking in general, lets write down as many topics as you can in the next ten minutes. Then there’s these, they tend to start to group into categories, you can get all of those episode ideas, you can group them into categories and you suddenly start to see the areas of that topic of that larger topic that you can niche down into, and that finds you specific topic I suppose. I think that’s a good idea to test out the idea, isn’t it. To zero in on the bit that you’re most interested in.
Matthew: Yeah, I’ve said to a few people in the past, “Imagine you’ve started your show a year ago and you went on iTunes and looked at your podcast, what are some of the episodes that you’d like to see appear in there are you scroll through the feed?”
Colin: Yeah, it’s never an easy answer on how to choose a topic, it’s down to a whole bunch of reasons isn’t it? I think the whole follow your passion, thing is flawed. You need to make sure it’s a passion that other people struggle with as well, gives them motivation and that’s where the problem solution pair comes in. Think about that, mostly and that validates the idea most effectively.