3 steps for subject matter experts to dominate their topic in the podcast universe.

There are more than 850,000 active podcasts available today, and the topics are becoming more and more specific. Sure, there are niche podcasts for birdwatchers and cryptocurrency investors, but there are also podcasts about a 1992 drug pricing program, how mentorship works in STEMM, and the history of electromagnetic warfare — none of which are for what you would call “general audiences”.

These podcasts succeed because they provide compelling audio content they know their niche listeners want — and sometimes even need. Subject matter experts have an advantage here, because they know the content and recognize the audience. Transforming that expertise into unique, high-quality audio content that attracts and retains listeners can be challenging, however.

We’re here to help. We’ve compiled three steps that are crucial to establishing your podcast’s niche and delivering high-value audio content your most important audiences will love.

Step 1: Define your Audience

This needs to be emphasized: Your podcast must serve your audience. There’s no point in creating a show that your target audience doesn’t want to hear. 

Unfortunately, many niche podcasts don’t reach their full potential because they’re designed for everyone but the listener. The show serves the host, the organization, or the guests, not the listeners. Many shows can’t even say who their listeners are supposed to be. Yikes. What’s a podcast without listeners?

Fallen tree in the woods

We understand the challenge.

Subject matter experts and their organizations need to communicate with multiple audiences: practitioners (often association members), policymakers, and reporters who cover their issues. They think a should serve all of these people. A show that tries to serve multiple audiences, however, will probably end up serving none of them well.

We have a saying at Voxtopica: If the description of your audience includes words like “and, but, or”, you haven’t truly defined your audience. Describing the audience as “members and policymakers” usually means the podcast content will mostly just be for members or mostly just be for policymakers, not meaningful and valuable for both. This makes it very hard to produce compelling content for every episode.

For a podcast to truly own a niche, it needs to be produced for a very specific audience. So, make a podcast for practitioners, or make a podcast for policymakers, or make a podcast for reporters. Perhaps make three different niche podcasts, one for each of these audiences. But making one show for all of them will ensure that only a fraction of each will listen.

Step 2: Align your Value

Now that you know who your specific audience is, you need to decide how your podcast is going to provide value to them. In other words, how will your podcast serve your audience?

Here again, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making a podcast that serves the host, organization, or guests. After all, you have information, resources, and insights, and your job is to share them to achieve a goal.

Your audience makes a choice in the podcasts they consume. Their wants and needs — not yours — determine the choices they make. To own the podcast niche inhabited by your specific audience, you should constantly be asking, what will my audience find valuable

Niche podcasts are about content and format.

First, you must think about the content — the information, resources, and insights your audience wants or needs and you can provide.

Then you must consider format — the way in which you present that content to the audience.

Podcast listeners find value in both content and format, so your podcast should provide value in both. If your audience values industry news updates, what format will be the most valuable way to deliver them: an interview, a conversation, a news anchor “top stories” segment, or something else? 

You have a lot to offer your audience. Remember that listeners have choices, so meeting their needs and desires should always be the primary objective of your podcast. Doing so successfully will almost guarantee your show will achieve the goal you have for it.

Step 3: Create Fans

When you clearly define your audience and align the value you offer with the value they want, your podcast will almost certainly be a success by most standards — but to own the niche, it has to be more than just popular with your listeners. It has to have fans.

What’s the difference between listeners and fans? A simple way to explain it is to consider their behavior. A listener might listen to new episodes within a month or two of their release. They find your show valuable.

Fans, however, listen to every new episode within a few days of its release. They find your show essential. That’s when you own a podcast niche.

How can niche podcasts turn listeners into fans?

The answer is simple: By engaging them. Engaging with your listeners — that is, communicating with them and encouraging them to communicate with you — provides a wealth of new information about who they are and what they want (and need) from your content.

Interacting with them also makes them more invested in your podcast, transforming it from mere content into a relationship that’s a part of their lives.

There are many ways to engage listeners. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Remember, a niche podcast is still a show. Each episode is an experience that primes your listeners for the next, just like their favorite television show, radio show, or movie franchise. And just like those other media, major success is counted in fans.

Embrace the Niche

Podcasting is a powerful and effective medium for subject matter experts to reach their most important audiences with valuable content. Audio content can be more intimate, accessible, and engaging than nearly every other media.

However, the nature of expert content can make it more challenging to consistently create great audio content your audience truly loves. After all, it’s far easier to make great content for podcast listeners “who love cats” than those “who are pharmacy benefit managers”.

The key is to remember that “pharmacy benefit managers” — or whoever your niche audience is — are people, too. Creating a podcast listening experience that is truly made to meet your specific audience’s unique wants and needs will help to ensure they come back again and again, episode after episode.