If you're looking to get into the podcast game for the first time, some of the best tips we can give are on how to find your podcast niche.
Determining the right niche is crucial to building a successful podcast because it underpins everything else.
So in this article, we'll look at the current state of podcasting. Then, we'll discuss popular niches and categories and give some practical advice on narrowing down the options to find your perfect podcast niche idea.
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Is starting a podcast a good idea?
Podcasting is almost 20 years old and has seen massive growth in the past three years. This deep dive into the state of podcasting reveals that Apple Podcasts had more than 650,000 new podcasts added in 2021. It's almost unbelievable growth, considering that there were only 875,000 created during the previous 16 years.
Some of these shows will become established, popular podcasts that keep gaining new listeners and five-star ratings. Many shows will slide into oblivion within a few months as the hosts discover just how tough it is to be in it for the long haul.
Other podcasts will slowly gain traction and establish a small but loyal audience.
However, the very fact that there are so many new podcasts is a good thing. It shows that podcasting is becoming widely accepted as mainstream media and an excellent way to reach an audience.
So, how can you set your podcast up for success? How do you attract potential listeners and grow a sizeable audience?
Your vital first step lies in choosing a podcast niche and category.
Most popular podcast categories
The Oxford Dictionary defines a category as 'a class or division of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics.' Podcasting categories include things like Society and Culture, Self-Improvement, Comedy, Business, Education, Sports etc.
We can view this pie chart showing popular categories in two ways: a glass half full or half empty. In other words, you can get gloomy and decide that it will be too challenging to rank your new podcast.
Or you can look on the bright side and realize that people love these topics and keep coming back for more. Remember that few podcast listeners confine themselves to just one show. Edison Research's Super Listeners 2021 survey discovered that many super fans listen to around 11 hours worth of podcasts each week.
So, can you find a way to link these popular categories to your area of expertise? For example, what about a comedic perspective on low-budget travel or a Christian perspective on business?
Our deep dive into podcast opportunities revealed that some categories and languages are massively over-represented. Cricket and Christianity, for example, seem to have many more podcasts than their potential audience size might warrant.
English is currently the primary podcasting language, leaving the door wide open for podcast hosts who speak other languages to go viral in non-English speaking countries.
Obviously, it can be hard to rank in an overcrowded category. So if your interests or business lie in that category, choosing a niche that will appeal to your target market is super important.
What is a podcast niche?
Podcast niches are narrow subsections of larger categories, and although it may seem counterintuitive, it pays to go super-specific to stand out.
There are millions of podcast listeners worldwide, so the chances are that if you're genuinely passionate about a topic, so are at least a few thousand other people. Maybe more!
So, you're more likely to have a successful podcast if your episodes differ from the competition. Finding the perfect niche will help you create content that appeals to a target audience that can't wait to get their ears around your next episode.
Finding your podcast niche
Even if you're starting a podcast to complement an established business, blog or YouTube channel, it's still worthwhile sorting out your niche. You may be an accountant or have a personal finance blog, but there are hundreds of money-related podcasts already. Having a niche helps your financial podcast stand above the crowd.
1. List your interests
One of the biggest podcasting tips is to create content around a podcast topic you feel passionate about. What could you talk about for hours and still never run out of ideas?
Are you a sports fan? Let's get specific — Football? Tennis? Athletics? Curling? (Yes, there are at least three Canadian curling podcasts with thousands of listeners per episode.)
Are you into Arts and Crafts? Gardening? Antiques? Tech? List ALL your interests, including curling up with a good book, drinking great coffee and blobbing out in front of "Real Housewives." You don't know what your magic mix will be at this point, so the more you have to work with, the better.
2. List your areas of expertise/knowledge
What do you know a lot about? This list includes things like your job and education but should expand into other areas.
What have you learned in life so far? What personal experience have you had that might lead to a good niche?
Have you been on a successful journey — or perhaps an unsuccessful one?
Do you already have a business? Are you an expert in one of your hobbies? Are you still learning, and could you take listeners along for the ride? Do you feel comfortable talking about your mental health journey?
In other words, what do you know a lot about? What are you learning, and what connections do you have that might lead to a good niche — and possibly even a co-host or guests?
Compare your two lists to see where there's a possible magical marriage of ideas that could spark niche possibilities. Are you an accountant who loves stand-up comedy? Perhaps you could create a humorous take on finance.
Are you a builder who loves gardening? Your podcast niche could be building projects in your garden — a niche that leads perfectly into creating a video podcast, too.
3. Think about a specific target audience
With your niche possibility or possibilities in mind, it's time to focus on your potential listeners.
Who do you envisage listening to your podcast? Where do they come from? Do you have a particular age group in mind? Why are they interested in that niche? What problems do they have that your show may solve? Are they tuning in for advice and guidance? To learn industry insights or because they want a laugh? To keep up with the latest trends and gossip? To be shocked or amazed?
Get specific about your audience and add them to your interest/expertise mix.
Now, you have something like:
- Money Girl's Quick and Dirty Tip for a Richer Life - personal finance, real estate, and investing tips - for people who want to be savvy investors
- Keep Optimising - focus on one marketing method each month - for savvy marketers
- Creator Smart - interviews and advice on business building - for YouTube creators in the language learning space who want to build a business beyond their YouTube channels
- Too Peas in a Podcast - advice and experiences from and for parents who have multiple children with disabilities and additional needs
- The Homeworking Club - advice, tips and discussions on the realities of freelancing - for newcomers to the working from home world
4. Research the competition
It's wise to look at other podcasts in the category and niche to see what they're doing and where there might be gaps.
Ask questions like:
- What is the podcast topic?
- Who is the target audience?
- What is missing?
- What do they cover but don't go into much depth on?
- What is the podcast format? Tutorials? Interviews? Storytelling? Monologue? Discussion?
- What engagement do they get - social, ratings and reviews etc.?
- Are there many similar shows?
Rephonic makes it easy to research shows thanks to our comprehensive database.
Use the Home screen search bar to look for podcast categories, then refine your search by audience skew, country, language and more.
For each podcast you'll see data such as listeners per episode numbers, format, social info and links to episodes and reviews. Rephonic also points you towards similar shows in two ways.
- A list of related podcasts
- 3D graph showing connections between similar shows
Alternatively, you can search through the charts and categories in Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast apps. Select shows that seem to fit your criteria and follow the links to their home page and website.
5. How many episode ideas can you come up with?
Before you focus on creating your podcast, there are a couple of other things to consider.
First, how many subject ideas can you come up with for the niche you're considering? If you can only think of five or six possibilities, you might not have the right topic.
On the other hand, if ideas are pouring out of you and the list goes off the page, you could be onto a winner, at least as far as finding a niche that you and (hopefully) other people like you love.
Isaac Asimov once wrote that two is an impossible number; it's either zero, one or infinity. In other words, if you and your mate are interested, there are probably many more people like you who are keen on that subject too.
This exercise may seem time-consuming, but pinpointing your niche now will smooth the road for everything else, from content creation to building audience interest and marketing.
Podcast niche ideas
Let's look at our niche equation in action to narrow down some interesting niches in different categories.
According to Rephonic's data, the five most overlooked English podcast categories are Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Social Sciences and Islam (although there are many podcasts about Islam in other languages.)
Real example: Physics World Stories Podcast
Podcast host "Andrew Glester talks to the people behind some of the most intriguing and inspiring scientific stories."
In the sports category, volleyball and swimming are the least-populated subcategories.
Real example: Volleyball By Design Podcast
"Gives coaches simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies so you can get clarity in your coaching and apply what you learn right away."
Let's look at Christianity, one of the most crowded categories on Apple Podcasts. These two shows are about Christianity, but they aren't competitors because their niches are so different.
Real examples: Pass the Mic and The Cold-Cast Christianity Podcast
Pass the Mic from The Witness looks at African American concerns from a biblical point of view.
However, The Cold-Case Christianity Podcast is hosted by a former cold-case homicide detective and "explores the evidence for God's existence, the reliability of the Bible and the truth of the Christian worldview."
Controversial podcast topics - good or bad idea?
Sometimes it pays to be controversial. The Joe Rogan Experience is huge no matter how you measure it. The podcast doesn't shy away from contentious issues, and many episodes are far longer than the recommended 20 minutes - an hour.
However, Spotify reportedly cut a deal worth $200 million to make the show a Spotify exclusive, and the audience numbers count in the millions too.
But, there is another side to the controversy coin. We also think the polarizing nature of some big shows is a reason for bad reviews. For example, fired-up listeners have been leaving poor ratings and scathing comments on The Daily in recent months, which has plummeted their average ratings received in 2021 to 3.2.
It all depends on the image you want to cultivate and the audience you're trying to attract.
There are more than two million podcasts available on podcast apps around the world (though not all of them are actively creating new episodes.) Still, it's also projected that by the end of 2022, there'll be around 424.2 million active listeners worldwide.
Podcasting is a growing medium, and there's still time for you to get on board. But history shows that you have a much greater chance of success if you consider your niche, audience and purpose before you start broadcasting.
You can't just pluck a topic out of thin air and hope that people will listen. Choosing your niche and launching a podcast begins with your interests, motives and research.
We can't do all the work for you, but we can save you time, effort and frustration when finding and comparing other podcasts. Start your research with Rephonic today.