Creative Podcast Ideas to Re-Engage Your Audience
Creative Podcast Ideas to Re-Engage Your Audience
A good podcast holds a listener’s attention for an entire episode. A great podcast keeps them coming back.
The basic principles of journalism can easily be applied to podcasting: grab the listeners' attention or lose them.
While this may seem fickle, you must remember that podcasts are where people choose to go primarily to be entertained, educated, or preferably both. Therefore, to survive the podcast industry's continued growth, you have to stand out and keep standing out.
So, If you're not hitting either criterion, maybe you need to come up with some creative podcast ideas to re-engage your audience?
According to Edison Research, on average 40% of listeners drop off in the first 7 minutes.
But engaging and re-engaging audiences is a time-honored challenge. Even Shakespeare felt the occasional ego-sting of audience walk-outs and empty theatre seats. Thankfully, we're not in the late 1500s and instead have tangible methods of finding and filling those missing links that will keep your audience's attention.
How To Come Up With Podcast Ideas
Many podcasters revert to a simple podcast format and stick to it, but this does have its disadvantages. Rarely breaking away from the comfort of, say, a simple interview-based podcast can breed stagnancy. Many originally excellent podcasts have fallen out of favor simply because they don't ever seem to evolve.
But, all great businesses run on good ideas, and you should look at your podcast as exactly that- a business. You have to come up with something different to draw people towards your show, and a good idea will be the thing that gets you noticed. Luckily, there's processes you can use to help workshop and strengthen your ideas.
So, how do you come up with a good podcast idea?
Developed by Peter Elbow in 1973, "Freewriting" is a highly effective technique for silencing your "inner censor" and writing in a flow state instead. As American author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury states, "Don't think; just write!"
- Set aside 15 to 20 minutes to write with no distractions.
- You can write by hand or type your ideas on a computer.
- Put down your thoughts as they arise, without evaluating them
DO write down every idea you can think of regarding your show, industry, and topic- no matter how "out there" you may feel it is. Judge yourself later!
DON'T worry about correct grammar or spelling. After your freewriting session, you can revise your work and develop any strong ideas you see within your writing.
Collaborative Brainstorming Sessions:
Brainstorming combines an informal approach to problem-solving with lateral thinking. These sessions encourage teams to voice thoughts and ideas that can, at first, seem a bit wild. But given some time and structure, be molded into something fresh and original.
Once a month, hold a big podcast idea brainstorming session with your team. Strive to generate as many creative ideas as possible.
Before you kick off, establish some traditional brainstorming ground rules:
- Rule 1: Focus on quantity.
- Rule 2: Withhold criticism.
- Rule 3: Welcome outlandish ideas.
- Rule 4: Combine and Improve Ideas.
Before each session, identify your goal and encourage each person to enter into the session with at least five ideas.
Think About Your Audience:
Apathetic audiences can still thwart a great idea. Let's face it, not every idea you come up with will land with your target audience or keep them engaged.
In marketing, it's a widely established sin to focus on what you want to say rather than address what your audience needs to hear.
If your podcast content is constantly missing the mark, you may have to delve into who your audience is to find out what they want.
Reestablish who your listener persona is. Ask yourself what do they want and need? What would be valuable to them? Are there any questions you could be tackling that no one else is? Or, are there uncharted industry topics you should be covering but aren't?
Utilize the data provided to you by directories such as Spotify. For example, you can see specific data such as age, gender, and location to help you make better content decisions.
By reestablishing precisely who your ideal audience is, you can focus on their needs and start to generate ideas that will tap into what's valuable to them.
Creative Podcast Ideas
The best podcasts are built on brilliant ideas. However, with the gap for originality growing ever smaller, it can be challenging to keep coming up with unique content that keeps audiences listening.
Here are some basic ideas for you to breathe some life into your show.
Interview Another Podcaster Within Your Industry
Become a continuous font of knowledge by bringing podcasters who are experts and leaders from within your industry. By leveraging someone else's expertise, you can inject new ideas and fresh perspectives into your show.
Podcasting well is somewhat of a core skill. That's why we recommend interviewing other podcasters (or at the very least those who speak publicly) from within your industry.
Microphone and speaking etiquette can be unfamiliar to most people. So to ensure you're having the most valuable conversations possible, you want someone who not only understands the podcasting medium but can hold a conversation, make insightful observations and give practical advice.
Give Practical Tips
The now-famous quote, "knowledge is power" ("Scientia potestas est") supposedly coined by Francis Bacon in 1597, is ideal for the podcasting industry.
As previously mentioned, one of the main reasons listeners gravitate towards podcasts is to be educated on a specific topic.
When you have valuable knowledge at your disposal, you ultimately have the power.
Add practical tips into your podcast; that way, your show may be the saving grace listeners are looking for. Strive to provide listeners with the tools, tactics, proven strategies, and industry stories to give your listeners some added value.
Remember, you have an understanding of your industry that can be incredibly beneficial for others.
Ask Your Audience
Being unafraid to ask for help is a life skill not everyone has mastered. But for podcasters, it can be essential, especially if you want to improve your content.
Your audience is the best indicator you have for whether something is working or not. So, if your listener engagement is falling, you need to know why and what you can do to make your content go further.
Audience engagement and participation are the best ways to come up with creative podcast ideas that stick. In some instances, it can transform the entire format of a show for the better.
- Use social media to ask your community directly what they want to hear.
- Be honest. Tell your listeners that there is a real purpose behind this fact-finding mission- that you want to be creating better content for them.
- Utilize tools such as SpeakPipe, which allows visitors to send you voice messages from anywhere on your website at the click of a button.
Podcasts like The Friendship Onion ask listeners to phone in or email their team with questions and suggestions. The result has been transformative. From the podcast's overall format to the dynamic between hosts and audience- the show has evolved beyond just two friends chatting and instead is a fully engaged podcasting powerhouse.
Go Behind the Scenes
Humans are deeply curious- it's in our nature. According to Philosopher and psychologist William James, curiosity is "the impulse towards better cognition." Essentially, we want to know the unknown, to fully understand this world we live in.
For podcasters, human curiosity is a goldmine for content creation. And nothing seems to fulfill that need more than taking listeners behind the scenes.
Here are some methods for capturing behind-the-scenes content:
- Interview the creative voices that either work on your podcast or are a part of your brand.
- Take your microphone out of the studio and "onto the field" and capture the sounds and voices around you
- Tell the unknown stories- both the good and the bad.
- If you have the capacity, use video to help put faces to the voices and show your process.
Offering insight into how your brand or business works including the culture, management, and everyday workings, will be totally unique to your podcast. It's a great way to pull listeners into your world and show them who you are and what you care about. Not only that, but it also breaks down that fourth wall and builds a deeper, more intimate relationship with your listeners- something that may have been lacking within your show before.
Use The Documentary Format
Reality can be far more thrilling than fiction. To level up your content, sometimes you have to make a shift from the standard to outstanding. Creating a branded documentary may seem like a mammoth challenge, but the added effort can be hugely beneficial in keeping listeners engaged.
The beauty of branded documentaries is that it's less commercially focused and instead emphasizes your overarching story.
Documentaries tend to fall into two categories, short-form (5-20 minutes) and long-form feature (50 - 120 minutes), or a series that contains multiple structured episodes that follow a story.
Creating a series documentary gives you the scope to release more marketing focus over time rather than one piece of stand-alone content. It also allows you to go deeper with your audience, to explore niche stories and subjects.
A great example of a branded documentary is Katherine Maslen's "The Shift.," where in-house expertise is bolstered by external industry voices, clever editing, cutaways, and music.
Think about the story or message you're trying to convey; whether you go down the highly produced NPR route or the rough and ready path like "Growing Our Amway Business."
Need help with your documentary series? Lower Street has multiple services available to bring your stories to life.
Rework Old Content
Reworking old podcast content doesn't mean finding your best-performing episode, revamping the intro, and re-releasing it in its original entirety. Instead, it's about taking past content, grouping similar themes together, and adding more context.
Content reworking or "repurposing" is a simple solution for those struggling with content ideation. Beyond the joys of saving yourself the time and effort of creating brand new content, reworking old episodes can provide several competitive advantages:
- Improved SEO
- Better audience targeting
- Leveraging your brand's credibility
Begin by identifying any recurring topics or themes from past episodes and start grouping them. Why not add new and updated perspectives, news, or information into these episodes? Turn older episodes into condensed blogs, or grab audio sections to turn into audiograms and quotes for social media.
Latest News in Your Field
As a podcaster within a specific niche or industry, there's a chance you have your finger on the pulse of what's newsworthy. Having deep roots in your industry can provide a wealth of value for listeners. So, why not share it?
People want to be educated on specific topics, and daily news podcasts are one of the fastest-growing methods for media consumption. Throughout 2021, news features accounted for more than 10% of the overall downloads in the US.
Be the go-to source for industry news and updates. Tracking what's hot and what's not by browsing social media groups, forums and articles is a great way to discover new topics of interest to discuss.
Create a weekly or even monthly rundown of the most important news and stories listeners need to know.
Use Forums Like Quora and Reddit To Source Content Ideas
Reddit attracts almost 60 million unique monthly visitors from the United States alone- which means that user-generated content like Quora and Reddit can be a treasure trove for new topics to cover.
Unlike other areas online, Reddit contains information and ideas you can genuinely use. Largely thanks to its active community, which fully supports quality and value.
Pick a niche or industry that matches your podcast topic, then browse the most relevant subreddits. To narrow down your search, type "how to" into the subreddit's search bar.
For Quora, you can pre-select the topics you're interested in and browse the questions that appear under that specific topic. Or, simply enter your keyword(s) in the search bar.
"Listeners need to be confident that if they decide to tune in to your show, they will be getting something of value. That means the burden lies solely on the creators, not the listener. "
Claire Gould, Content Marketer at Lower Street
Creative Podcast Ideas Using Sound Design.
Sound design is a tool that's used to aid in telling a story, whether that's a movie, theatre, radio or podcasting. If you have a simple back and forth interview, or even a heavily edited documentary, by incorporating music, sound effects, voice-over (VO), and additional audio snippets, you can break away from the "standard" podcast experience.
Beyond your usual intro and outro, music can be the great unifier between segments. It can emphasize points, add emotion, help brand your show and create an atmosphere beyond the standard podcast audio.
The role of podcast music is to enhance the content of your podcast and not manipulate or override the story or message. So, when selecting music, keep the theme of the podcast and the target audience in mind.
NPR's How I Built This are pioneers with music integration:
Adhering to copyright laws for your podcast music is critical. While we can't get into the complete list of legalities here, there are directories you can use that are "Podsafe," aka they provide legalized podcasting music or audio that is royalty-free. These sites allow you to use music without paying royalties to the composer. Artlist and Free Music Archive are excellent resources.
Condense Long Segments
A recent study showed that a human being's attention span is shorter than a goldfish's. What that means is most of us are mindfully zoning in on information for a whole eight seconds.
For podcasters, that fact means we want to be extending that period as much as possible. Clever audio editing can be an absolute necessity when it comes to storytelling.
- Condensing longer uninterrupted segments can be an effective way of keeping listener attention and engaging them for longer.
- Pick the sections of content that you know will resonate with your audience the most. Try to keep these points to under ten minutes each.
- Cut out anything that goes off-topic doesn't add value to the listener experience.
Create Narrative Signposts
Don't let the audience get lost. Signposts are audio markers that separate one act from another and are an incredible way of keeping the momentum going.
Adding in carefully scripted narration can signpost key turning points within the story. Use these moments to break down and answer questions, recap segments, add valuable thoughts or information before moving onto other topics.
Remember, your audience will always benefit from guidance.
Utilize Scripted Segments
Voice over is a seriously underrated and underutilized tool within podcasting.
Use voice-over segments to highlight previous points, add extra context to a subject, put in a personal story, or even divert towards a contrasting point of view.
Decide where a voice-over interjection would be most effective within your audio, and take note of the timestamp. Next, write out the scripts for each of your voice-over segments. Finally, plan to record all these segments in one sitting.
Cut in Past Interviews
Aside from the usual interview format, you can engage audiences by injecting broader perspectives and voices into the mix by revisiting past guest interviews.
Suppose a guest you're interviewing touches on a familiar topic, one that you've already covered. Including an audio snippet from a previous interview can help bolster that point.
Repurposing older interviews can also add an opposing viewpoint, create an audio signpost or help break up long portions of audio.
TIP: Keep a spreadsheet of each interview you do, along with the topics you cover and the episode's title and date. This makes referring back to past interviews 10x easier during the editing process.
Make Your Show a Narrative
Humans are naturally drawn to stories. It's how we've communicated ideas and cautionary tales for millennia. Yet, despite most podcasters striving to teach, entertain, or educate, most shows end up overlooked and buried.
So what sets a great podcast apart from the rest? The answer is simple: storytelling.
The Dropout - What Now?
Narrative podcasts are story-driven shows and break away from the usual interview-style format. Instead, they incorporate clever editing to combine multiple stories by pulling from interviews and other recordings, sounds, and music.
The Drop Out, hosted by Rebecca Jarvis, is a gripping podcast that follows the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. Produced by ABC news, this docu-series looks at how the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, developed world-changing technology that was meant to revolutionize health care- but instead potentially put millions of patients at risk.
Measure Each Episode’s Performance Using Data
Podcasts that experience irregularities in their listenership may require a deeper strategy. A strategy that goes beyond the basic weekly download numbers, and instead on real-time data.
For podcasters looking to re-engage their listeners, having access to a podcast audience’s data may enable more precise targeting, which may make for more successful content creation in the long run.
Apple Podcasts have created “Podcasts Connect,” a simple and structured way to look at your audience data. Analyze a show’s data using the graphs and charts in the Overview tab. Also, you can compare your episode performance and dive into your listeners’ interest levels and engagement by
- Head to podcastsconnect.apple.com
- Sign in with your Apple ID and password
- Select Podcast Analytics from the dropdown menu in the top-left corner or bottom left of your screen
- Explore your listener data
Engagement levels. Using this particular data is ideal for showing you how tuned in your listeners are. This tool takes the total number of people who listened to at least 20 minutes (or 40%) of an episode. Ideally, you want this number to be over 85%.
If there is a discrepancy between certain episodes, try to establish the differences between them in terms of subject matter and content and rectify that moving forward.
Apple Podcasts Episode Data: Minute By Minute
On the “overview” screen, by clicking on an episode you can see the minute by minute data of where listeners are either tuning in or dropping off.
This feature even includes a “play” option where you can play the episode from the start and watch in real-time the exact moment listener’s are starting to either pause the episode or stop it completely.
This feature is invaluable for pinpointing what was happening at that specific moment that saw a drop or rise in listener engagement. Were your listeners skipping your intro or mid-rolls? Was there a particular topic that spiked some genuine attention?
When you have this kind of data to hand, you can begin managing your content at a more advanced level.
Spotify For Podcasters
Spotify Catalogue provides podcasters with a general overview of how your podcast is performing within Spotify, and contains some listener data that is incredibly useful.
Spotify's analytics dashboard, “Spotify Dashboard” enables podcast creators to access in-depth data, such as age, gender and location of their listeners. Not only that, but also the type of music they like and how long they listen to a podcast episode for- and most importantly where they stop.
- Head to podcasters.spotify.com/home
- Sign in with your Spotify ID and password
- Select “Catalogue” from the two tabs at the top middle of your screen
- Explore your listener data
Spotify’s Podcast Minute by Minute Data
Spotify’s episode performance data offers a detailed overview into exactly how your listeners are engaging with your podcast- down to the second.
By selecting a specific episode you’ll see a green graph that represents your audience’s retention. This graph shows the average time listeners spent on an episode, plus the percentage of listeners that got to the first, second, and third portion. Then there’s the statistics of those who made it to the end. This allows you to track an episode’s drop off rate and exactly when it occurs.
Unlike Apple’s Podcast Connect, there isn’t an episode play function, so to identify exactly what occurred in the audio at a specific drop-off point, you’ll have to revisit your audio.
Compare the performance of each of your episodes to establish any patterns in your users’ listening habits to see if your content or format needs to change to maintain retention.
Your audience is the key to your podcast's success. If you're neglecting the listener's interests, you'll certainly be doing your show a disservice. As with most industries and business, there will always be peaks and troughs in engagement; that's just the nature of the podcasting beast. But, there are times to hold back and times to take action.
Get serious about your audience and what they need; i.e clearly define your listener base. That’s your step number one. Now, look for ways you can bring them more value. That special something that draws from your specific unique selling point. What can be bundled up and presented to your listeners in an entertainment or educational format?
Finally, breathe some life into your show. Could interviewing industry experts keep listeners tuning into your show? What about completely revamping the format and instead opt-in for a documentary series?
Coming up with creative podcast ideas needs to always come back to you listeners. Using tried and true processes helps to nudge you towards the best content you should be creating- which in turn that takes listeners exactly where they need to go; right back to your show.