Novel: The secret to great podcast ideas

How the company's development guru fuels inspiration

Every great podcast starts with a great idea, but looking at a blank page, it can often feel like finding that spark of inspiration is an impossible task. The secret to coming up with successful podcast concepts may seem like a mystical art, but there are a range of proven tips, tricks and strategies that seasoned professionals use to fuel their creativity.

Production company Novel is among the best in the industry at sniffing out a strong story, as demonstrated by a string of hits spanning a wide range of genres, including The Girlfriends, Stolen Hearts and 28 Dates Later. This week we speak to Novel’s creative director for development, Willard Foxton, about how he and his team identify great podcast ideas, the perils of pitching, and why diversity is at the heart of a great development strategy.

Key Takeaways

Write your ideas down on paper 

“What ‘originating’ is, it's the first time you really put your idea down on paper,” said Foxton. “You write it out and often the ideas that are on paper are just rubbish, and you realise at that sort of prototyping stage – ‘Oh, I thought this sounded so good in my head, and now I've written it down, it's rubbish!’

“It's really important that you don't just verbally describe it. You write it down because that enables you to circulate it really widely within a group of people who have opinions.” 

Learn from successful projects

“One thing I think not enough people do is they don't learn enough from success,” said Foxton. “Nobody analyses success like a failure gets relentlessly analysed. Like, why didn't it work? Why didn't anyone listen to it? What mistakes did we make? 

“Success is actually in some ways more important to analyse. You analyse, like, ‘What could we have done better on this success?’ And that feeds into the process at the top.” 

Listen to diverse voices on your team

“The idea of Harsh Reality actually came from a young trans producer that we had, and she said ‘This was a really formative experience for me,’” said Foxton. “I think it was a really formative experience for lots of other trans people; it was the first time I'd ever seen a trans person represented on screen as someone who was sexually desirable and that was such a really interesting insight.

“I would never have come to that story had that person on the team not had that specific identity and that specific thing that mattered to them. The truth is, if something matters a lot to somebody, then it probably matters a lot to a lot of people.”

Footnotes

Novel partners with sexual violence nonprofit No More to launch true-crime podcast

Novel appoints Amazon veteran Simon Morris as chairman

Wondery and Novel partner to launch new true crime podcast

Comedian Grace Campbell to host dating podcast for iHeart and Novel

ITV Studios secures adaptation rights for Global’s true crime series Filthy Ritual

A24 to adapt true crime podcast The Girlfriends into a TV series

Earworms: The best of 2023

Blanchard House: The importance of owning your IP

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