How to Avoid Topic Drift

Rich Podcasting

One of the biggest mistakes new podcasters make is not focusing on topics they truly care about.

In my own experience, what we discussed upfront was far different from where we were after 20 episodes. What was supposed to be the main portion of the show (personal finance and career advice) turned into side dishes. The majority of our time was spent discussing relationships, pop culture, current events and other things that weren’t on the radar when we conceptualized the show. We were still able to build an audience thanks to our chemistry, but it was a lot different than planned. I learned a lot from this, but will share a couple insights here:

Be careful with letting the people that surround you today determine your focus tomorrow.

Before we got into podcasting, WIM (his moniker then) and I spent years writing for a popular relationship blog. When we tried to introduce career and personal finance topics, the audience response was abysmal. We assumed that meant people didn’t wanna talk about work and money, but the problem was we were discussing those topics in the wrong place! Imagine going to an Italian restaurant expecting to eat some bomb pasta (no offense to the gluten-free audience) and they’re trying to serve you a burger (no offense to PETA). You can probably think of several places that do burgers better, so you wouldn’t be inclined to trust it. This was no different.

We let that experience cloud our perspective, which led to us discussing topics we knew would get a reaction instead of the topics that were supposed to anchor the show. Had we gone outside the blog and the resulting social media following to find the audience we wanted, we would’ve discovered there were a ton of people interested in work and money.

If you do what’s popular, you’ll surely be average.

Imitation is the best form of flattery…until you’re imitating something that isn’t what you truly want.

(There was probably a better way to say that, but I’m gonna rock with it.)

Before I launch new things, I do research. A few years back I asked for podcast recommendations on social media and was primarily directed toward comedy and pop culture shows. This made sense given how I’d grown my following (foolishness and relationships). It also reaffirmed the thinking from the previous point, which increased the pressure to hit topics I wasn’t truly interested in. I was well out of my lane, but went along with it for the good of the show. The result? Segments and discussions where I had very little to offer. Not a great feeling when you’re half the show. Even worse, there were literally thousands of people out there that would’ve done some of those topics better than me.

When starting a show, think about your differentiating factor. What will you do better (if not the best) compared to other shows in your lane?

When you get away from your why, you suffer.

Had we consistently revisited ours, it wouldn’t have taken us years to pivot. If you’re launching your podcast, I encourage you to spend a lot of time here. In this post, I mention a simple exercise to find your true why so you don’t lose sight of your north star. Podcasting is already a time-intensive task. Imagine how many hours you’ll save by focusing on what inspired you to start in the first place.

It’s easy for external factors to take us off-course. Despite reading this, you’ll experience moments where you drift or consider new things for the wrong reason. I encourage you to remember why you were bold enough to start a podcast, and to stick to that as much as possible. The waters will get rough regardless, but you’ll be better prepared to face them.