So you want to start a podcast yet are confused about which topic to use. We’ve researched the best podcast topics to help you on your podcasting journey.
Here we cover this subject in more detail than we do in our How to Start a Podcast guide.
What better way to get ideas flowing than to look at podcasts with a solid fan base? That’s why I’ll do podcast case studies to learn more, like the first case study of the My Favorite Murder podcast.
There are many great podcast topics that live and grow with us. Today we’ll review those topics that can kickstart ideas to launch you on your podcasting journey.
Table of Contents
Popular Podcast Topics
An area where you can find topic ideas is to review the lists on podcast platforms like Apple. This might spark some ideas of what you may want to talk about:
1. True Crime
People love the thrill of an unsolved murder. Maybe you do too? I mean, is there a better way to deal with the anxiety that came with 2020? True Crime is fast becoming one of the most popular genres in the podcast industry. Perhaps, a person comes to feel more alive when taken through a murder mystery or another crime that leaves more questions than answers. The secret is in the aftermath, the thoughts, the shrill, and the emotions that such stories elicit.
Usually, a True Crime podcast follows different unsolved murders or other crimes, mostly one at a time. The podcaster gives a brief background and goes on to compound your anxiety with lots of questions and mysteries. As of February 2020, True Crime on Apple Podcasts Categories had an estimated 43,000 episodes. So if you think you have a penchant for murder mysteries and the criminal underworld, you may want to carve a niche within this category.
True Crime Podcast Examples
- Killer Queens: This podcast is co-hosted by two sisters. It takes a dip into the 90s as they discuss the details of a different unsolved crime one episode after another. The presentation technique is also very exciting and the podcast has won the hearts of many across the world. It stands tall as one of the most beautiful podcasting examples we have.
- Serial: This is often regarded as podcasting’s first true hit as far as True Crime is concerned. Sarah Keonig and her NPR colleagues did a good one with this. For Serial, it was a single story that altered the podcasting industry – the conviction of Adner Syed.
There are several popular names like Wrongful Conviction, Chasing Cosby, and To Catch and Kill with Ronan Farrow.
Comedy is one of those great podcast topics. Everyone needs as much laughter as they can get. The mainstream comedy industry is witnessing a boom like never before. It is only normal that the virtual world will follow suit, and podcasts are not disappointing.
Comedy Podcasts on iTunes recorded a whopping 1.661 Million episodes as of February 2020 – more than 4% of the entire podcast episodes streamed.
Comedy Podcast Examples
- WTF with Marc Maron: You’ll be amazed at how much Maron combines comedy with inspiring stories through his engagement of top celebrities including, at one point, President Barack Obama. Maron found success in podcasting after struggling to establish himself as a comic for many years. With Maron’s interview style, his podcast is not so much about making an effort to be funny, it’s the honesty and humor that comes with how he elicits details about the lives of your favorite celeb.
- Why Won’t You Date Me?: This one is hosted by Nicole Byer. It takes on an Interview format, with Byer always asking her guests a simple question – will you date me? For Byer, there’s nothing too much to talk about. She overshares and often elicits very interesting conversations both with her guests and listeners.
Sports is a multi-billion dollar industry across the globe so naturally, it’s one of those great podcast topics. Podcasters talk about American football, racing, basketball, hockey, rugby, and soccer. Sports podcasters have always enjoyed the popularity that comes with the industry. I mean, you have to be really engaging as well. If you’re able to, you have a podcast like James Richardson’s The Totally Football Show that was downloaded 26 million times in 2019.
It’s always too easy for traditional media to focus on what they consider the biggest sporting shows or tournaments. With sports podcasting, a new array of sports reporting around the world has opened up. With the hundreds, if not thousands, of sports podcasts around the world, you won’t believe the category launched less than two decades ago. Sports Podcasts speak to people in ways the regular TV show would not, bringing the energy and passion of the game to you. A February 2020 poll showed that sports ranked as one of the great podcast topics with more than 2 million episodes.
Sports Podcasts Examples
- The Bill Simmons Podcast: Bill Simmons is known for hosting the most downloaded sports podcast of all time. This is achieved through a series of amazing topics from the world of sports dissected by Simmons and his guests. This would’ve passed for a monochrome podcast, if not that Simmons always finds a way to have family members and friends on the show.
- All the Smoke (on Showtime channel): Talk about two ex-New stars dishing out the latest from on and off the courts. With this show, there are no boundaries. Mark Barnes and Stephen Jackson were big-time competitors during their time as players. Today, they co-host one of the most respected sports podcasts in the world. This is an amazing sports podcasting example.
Music occurs in all cultures and languages of the world so it’s one of the great podcast topics. One good thing is as the music industry continues to grow in leaps and bounds, there is consistent growth in the music podcast industry as well. With about 1.6 million music podcast episodes on the airwaves at last count, there is a reason music gets the kind of attention it does. Most music podcasts go beyond the songs to discuss drama and intrigue.
So when Bielebers want the latest scoop on Justin and Selena, or who’s stalking who, they know where to go. And when there’s a new collaboration between Queen Bey and Meghan, you can be sure your favorite music podcaster will have the full story.
Music Podcasts Examples
- Punch Up the Jam: It is strange to call on comedians to “punch up” a pop song. I mean, music is not a joke, literally. But on this podcast, Miel Bredouw and Demi Adejuyigbe do what many may have thought impossible. They simply dig into some enduring hits, tearing them apart and attempting to rearrange the songs, albeit getting hilarious results. Punch Up the Jam is listed as a music commentary podcast, but this one can also pass on for comedy. It is a co-hosted podcast with occasional guest(s) appearances.
- New York Times Popcast: Don’t pay attention to the name, this is way bigger than pop. The host John Caramanica is a popular music critic who brings several years of experience to the table, shared with a slew of critics who engage in enthusiastic debates about who did what and why in the music industry. Everything is talked about here; from the future of Jazz to the rise of modern country music, and so much more. It is co-hosted by Writers Jon Pareles, Caryn Ganz, and Joe Coscarelli, with occasional guest appearances.
Sometimes there is a scientific explanation for paranormal events according to popular paranormal podcasters. Paranormal podcasts are popular because of the debate left behind moments after it is over. That’s one reason it’s one of the best podcast topics. Believers and skeptics go at each other, engaged in heated arguments about the existence of UFOs and demons. It is both exciting and scary. It’s the perfect drama for the curious mind. Science had wrapped up just around 390,000 episodes as of February 2020.
Paranormal Podcasts Examples
- This Paranormal Life: “Is my home truly haunted by the ghosts of the long-dead neighbors or my mind is just playing tricks? In episode 163, I particularly loved the opening; “Could a Demon read the Bible? And if not, how would it ever get better?” Rory Powers’ voice blasts through the air with that regular tinge of mystique and comic flavor. His co-host Kit Grier is just as creepy- both men serenading our minds with curiosity and soft torment. The show often runs between 45mins and one hour. It is one of the many great examples of podcasting.
- Astonishing Legends: This is more of a narrative. People who have been affected by paranormal experiences are brought to the show to share their stories and provoke some of the most frightful questions in the minds of listeners. The show is hosted by Scott Philbrook and Forrest Burgess, an engaging duo that connects with their guests in a captivating way.
What is the present without history? After all, life is one long, connected chain of events. History presents different views on human existence; why we are the way we are, what went wrong (or right) on the way, and the specific life-changing events that changed the course of humanity. Whether it’s sharing the gory tales of the Cold War or examining the breakup of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev, it’s like they say, you’re doomed to fail if you don’t learn from the past.
You too can decide this is what you want to do; your own amazing history channel; and gradually grow your audience. But it doesn’t have to be this serious. There are historical podcasts that detail the life and times of Tupac Shakur and the Eastside-Westside street war with Christopher Wallace AKA the Notorious B.I.G. There are currently around 112,000 episodes of History Podcasts, according to the latest stats.
History Podcasts Examples
There are quite a number of history podcasts, ranging from sports, music, and politics to everything else you can think of.
- BackStory: I particularly like the way the hosts present their array of stories with their series. American historians Brian Balogh, Ed Ayers, Joanne Freeman, and Nathan Connolly attempt, rather successfully, to detail the most salient headlines and establish a connection with American history. Who would’ve thought they’d name Benjamin Franklin as one of the founding fathers of fake news when they focused on the history of fake news? It is a co-hosted podcast format.
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: While many podcasters will often depend on the mixed soundtrack and audio effects to influence the mood of their shows, Carlin only needs to speak and you’ll be sucked in. Dan Carlin is one of the early pioneers of podcasting as we know it today. His Hardcore History uses dramatic flare and resounding oratory to narrate some of history’s most epic moments. And it’s not just the twists and turns, Carlin always has good material ranging from past wars and leaders to crimes and genocides.
News and Politics are often put together when we talk about podcasting. Depending on what you want out of your news; a quick summary of major headlines or a detailed analysis of specific events, there are many news and politics podcasts out there that fit the part. In fact, news podcasts are so popular that they have recorded 1.512 Million episodes as of February 2020, according to Dan Misener’s stats for Apple. News podcasts keep us informed of happenings around the globe, create distilled perspectives, and generally help us understand the news.
There are those that are slightly opinionated – the podcaster leading us into their perceptions and ideologies in a manner that respects ours. There are quite a number of popular news podcasts. However, there’s so much room left if this is what you decide to focus on. Be sure you have a knack for news though.
News Podcasts Examples
- The Gist: This is a news and current events podcast format with a host and a number of guests. The Gist is hosted by Mike Pesca every afternoon as he delivers a breakdown of the most salient news and events from across the world. Pesca combines factual reportage and intelligent opinions to dish out the crux of the matter in the most entertaining manner. His podcast usually has 3 segments; the comedic opening, the Interview session (with journalists or politicians as guests), and the Spiel, which is a monologue of his insights and opinions.
- NPR Politics Podcast: On this podcast, they don’t just tell you what happened. They tell you why it’s important. Yes, that’s their slogan. From Washington, NPR combines its best reporters in a bid to provide a wide array of perspectives on the affairs of the state. This kind of news reporting has become popular as it moves away from the hard, time-driven conventional radio to a more personalized format.
8. Religion and Spirituality
Religion is one of the best podcast topics there is. There are hundreds of podcasts about religion and spirituality to feed your curiosity.
This is one very good podcast example that is popular among millions of people around the world. The podcasts range from Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam to the Vedic practices of ancient India. In fact, as of February 2020, religion and spirituality podcasts were the most produced around the world with about 6.04 million episodes.
Religion and Spirituality Podcasts Examples
- Joel Osteen Podcast: Joel Osteen has established himself as a global Christian leader and successful televangelist. His loyal followers worldwide didn’t take too long to also jump link up with him when he started his podcast several years ago. Each week, Joel and his wife Victoria dish out messages on their free ministry resource to, perhaps, millions worldwide. The aim is to connect with listeners on a spiritual note, uplift communities, and help them cope with the travails of life. It is a co-hosted show.
- AstroVed’s Astrology Podcast: This is a more spiritual science, linked to the Ancient Indian Vedic era. AstroVed’s podcast is founded on the divine knowledge of several sages from centuries ago, passed on from generation to generation. Subject matters range from Moon Phases, Planetary Transits, and Dasa to Bhukti periods.
9. Health and Fitness
I know how overwhelming it can be to take in all that content on health and fitness. And for most of us, reading is serious work. It’s just hard to get it sometimes. This is why podcasts are largely accepted. You can go about your regular routine and just listen. Whether at the local cafe taking a cappuccino, at the gym hitting the treadmill, or even driving to work, you can easily listen to expert advice and opinions on very sensitive health issues.
There are thousands of health and fitness podcasts around the globe. The Fitfam culture has also led to an exponential increase in the last five years. So if you’re looking to start a podcast, these might be great podcast topics.
Health and Fitness Podcasts Examples
- On Purpose with Jay Shetty: Talk about a celebrity podcaster. Jay Shetty was a monk and brings his amazing knowledge and experience to bear on this one. Jay is also an inspirational speaker, having had talks with top executives and business leaders on social media strategy with organizations like Facebook. But it doesn’t end here. Jay has had some of the big names on his show, including Khloe Kardashian.
- Sleep with Me: Think of this podcast as bedtime stories for adults. How Drew Ackerman manages to get grown adults to sleep still beats me. The New York Times once featured the podcast. Those who suffer the pain of insomnia have found a warm company in Ackerman who delivers sonorous bedtime stories. It follows a solo podcast format and has gained so much popularity since its launch in 2013.
10. Society and Culture
Society and Culture continue to rank second on the list of great podcast topics. It had raked in 2.385 million episodes as of February 2020 to come in second – only behind Religion and Spirituality – on the podcast popularity chart. Society and Culture can range from anything x-raying the lives and times of particular pop culture or celebrity during a particular era. As CNN’s Sophia Smith Galer puts it, you don’t have to be a culture vulture to find what you like in this category.
And if you’re considering setting up a podcast, this could be a good place to start with the several cultural and societal issues that have been with us for centuries. Whether it’s race, people, movies, or the lives of some icons of the past, there’s always something to talk about.
Society and Culture Podcast Examples
- Living with Landyn: Landyn Hutchinson’s podcast talks about everything from decorating your home on a tight budget, what color(s) will fit your living room, or how to buy a good concealer. One good podcast episode I particularly like is the one about how much you haven’t been able to sleep since the kids were born, even though you love them. It begins with one pretty choice and then moves into other aspects of your life – specifically your home. It is a solo podcast type.
- Deadly Misadventures: With the belief that life is one connected chain of events, this podcast leads the listener back to some of those life-changing choices they made and how that has altered some aspects of their lives. In each episode, the discussions lead to the question of whether we control our own destinies.
This list is in no particular order. We’ve reviewed some of the great podcast topics out there today. Best of luck with your podcast.