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4 Podcast Ideas You Can Steal From Top Podcasters

By Eric Halsey

Thinking about ideas for a podcast, it’s too easy to get stuck in basic formats like “interviews.” But the best podcasts out there have ideas at their core that go deeper. They’re not about interviews, but about putting people in mild discomfort and learning about them in the process. They’re not about explaining processes but taking you through a process.

Below, we break down a few of our favorite podcasts and shows to help you see beyond the simple categories and understand the ideas that make them work. Best of all, we break down what you can take away from each to use in your own show.

Looking outside your industry

Before we talk about the 4 ideas, we need you to be in the right mindset. Remember that one of the best ways to innovate is to look for inspiration outside of your industry. This is where you're going to find the most innovative ideas that will allow you to stand above the competition and build a powerful brand.

So even if you think you can’t do what a celebrity interviewer does because you work in logistics, think again. Read each of these ideas and consider how they could be adapted to your business.

The Meta Podcast (Startup)

It’s the podcast about starting a company… which happens to make podcasts. Startup really nails the compelling personal narrative and point-of-view as a way to delve into a process. In this case, it’s the process of starting a company.

Why it works

Starting a company is intense. The emotional highs and lows, make for compelling drama. But it’s also a process most of us know little about, so there’s a lot to discover in following it. Together, these elements make for a truly compelling show. The real-time element is also engaging. You’re hearing the characters experience things as they happen, adding a layer of suspense.

What you can learn from it

First, if you’d like to create a podcast that’s all about explaining a complex process that plays out over time, this is a great model to follow. Consider how your topic can be broken up into smaller sections that you can build narrative around. Then, find a way to record everything as you go. Just be aware that with this approach, the real work is in the editing room.

The Fish Out of Water (Hot Ones)

One of Youtube’s breakout shows is massively popular for good reason. It takes celebrities and puts them far outside their comfort zone. Over the course of the interview, the host and guest eat increasingly spicy chicken wings while the interview progresses.

Why it works

One key thing here is to look beyond the basic premise. One of the most common things you’ll hear guests say on this show is “that’s a great question.” The show’s success is really a combination of an excellent premise with excellent interviewing skills. That said though, the true genius of the show is when guests are taken out of their comfort zone and the viewers end up learning unexpected things about them.

What you can learn from it

One lesson here is that a great interview always rests on a great interviewer and excellent questions. That said, a fun premise helps a lot. So if you are interviewing, try to find a way to make your approach stand out. Then, be sure to do your research and come up with unexpected questions that will surprise your guests and audience alike.

The Striking Contrast (Real Lawyer Reacts)

I mentioned above that you likely don’t think you can create compelling content around an industry like logistics. However, plenty of creators like this one have shown that’s not the case. Hearing a lawyer analyze the law might not be inherently interesting. But have that lawyer analyze the law in popular culture and you have a compelling show.

Why it works

The contrast between the buttoned-up and professional lawyer hosting the show and the content he’s analyzing is inherently interesting. You always wonder how he’ll react to some of the downright silly and wrong ways the law is portrayed in popular culture. To top it all off, it's genuine educational content, showing you the difference between the actual law and how it's portrayed in popular culture.

What you can learn from it

Taking the logistics example from the beginning, hearing a supply chain specialist talk about supply chains probably isn’t very interesting. But hearing them talk about the supply chains of the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars or Wakanda in Black Panther could be extremely entertaining. So consider how your expertise could be applied in unexpected ways.

The Point of View (The Memory Palace)

While the example of the Startup podcast is done from the first person, this is a show that remains in the third person but tells compelling stories from the perspective of its characters. Whether it’s an early 20th century labor organizer or a simple lighthouse keeper, this show demonstrates how to make the mundane into something profound.

Why it works

This particular podcast is all about storytelling. It looks at the lives of the people it features as windows into something greater than themselves. The resulting stories are sweet, moving, and always teach you something unexpected. The tone is also key. It puts you into a mindset and prepares you to be taken on a journey.

What you can learn from it

Consider all of the people involved in making your business run. Think about how your industry functioned in the past. There’s likely a lot of personal stories to be found throughout. Even if you only talk about your industry’s history, you can build a name and reputation on that kind of work.

Now take your inspiration and run with it!

If you’ve got a great idea and are wondering what to do now, we’ve got breakdowns of how to set up an affordable podcasting studio, how to repurpose podcast content (and you really need to be repurposing your content), and more ideas for a video series. Or, if you think you really need an expert to work with you, book some time with us.

Tags: podcast, podcast topics