Titling a podcast is an art form in and of itself. Not only should your title communicate the tone, genre, and plot of your show, but it also needs to communicate what makes your show unique compared to the hundreds of existing shows in the same genre. It should also, ideally, be a title that nobody else has thought of, both in the podcasting space and in other media (you probably don’t want to name your dystopian fiction show Divergent or your cooking nonfiction show Good Eats). Oh, and try to make it short enough to fit in a Twitter handle while you’re at it.
There’s also a lot of pressure to get it right: Along with your cover art, your title is the first thing that people will see in their podcatchers, so it plays a key part in whether they check you out or keep scrolling. Despite all this pressure, titling a podcast doesn’t have to be scary. In this article, we’re going to go over common types of titles to give you some good inspiration, plus a handy step-by-step method for choosing a unique title of your own. Your title is your first and most important marketing tool—so let’s make sure you’re choosing one that will give you the best chance of success.
Common types of titles
It’s unclear exactly how many podcasts are out there, but the number is definitely high, and most shows have at least a semi-unique title. However, after looking through many podcasts, I’ve pieced together a few rough categories that are pretty popular. Here are some common types of title with examples and input from creators about why they chose the names they did.
Something descriptive about the hosts/main characters
Podcast Examples: Girl in Space; My Brother, My Brother, and Me
Examples from Other Media: Daughter of the Moon Goddess (book), Spiritfarer (video game), Fullmetal Alchemist (manga/anime)
Describing your show’s main figures in the title is a great way to immediately convey what’s distinctive about them—and, as such, what’s distinctive about your show. An added benefit to this type of title is that it often writes itself: you just need to figure out the most distinctive thing about the main figures. For example, take the aptly-titled science fiction podcast Girl in Space. Show creator Sarah Rhea Werner explains, “I started Girl in Space as a fun little experiment and absolutely did not take it seriously—basically, I said, ‘I wanna make a show about a girl in space, so… I’m just gonna call it Girl in Space for now until I think of something better.’ I didn’t have a better or more professional-sounding title in mind when I was ready to release the pilot, and it kind of made me laugh, so I stuck with Girl in Space.”
A common phrase or a play on words
Podcast Examples: Seen and Not Heard, Just the Zoo of Us, Null/Void
Examples from Other Media: The Importance of Being Earnest (play), Bad Blood (album), Exit Strategy (book)
Another common strategy is to use a common phrase that relates to the show. One example is Seen and Not Heard, a fiction podcast about a woman navigating her new hearing loss. The title serves as both a clever remark on how she experiences the world and a reflection of her struggles to get her hearing loved ones to listen when she tries to explain her deafness. However, show creator Caroline Mincks says that the title actually started as a placeholder. “I called it that because I hate leaving things without a title the same way I hate not having a named character,” Mincks explained. “I didn't love the title at first, but it grew on me and then I couldn't imagine a different name.”
An important place in the show
Podcast Examples: Wolf 359, The Magnus Archives
Examples from Other Media: Legends & Lattes (book), Tacoma (video game), The Owl House (animated series)
If there’s a location that’s both distinctively named and important to your plot—the archives in The Magnus Archives, the star in Wolf 359, the space station in Tacoma—that can serve as an attention-grabbing title that’s unique to your show. When asked about the story behind Wolf 359, creator Gabriel Urbina explained that the star the show literally revolves around was originally unnamed in the scripts. He later found “Wolf 359” on a list of stars closest to our sun and used that in the scripts; eventually, it got adopted as the show’s name. Urbina says, “Ultimately, it ended up becoming quite a good title, and something that was very evocative of the place and the reality of where the characters were. So naming your show after the place and the setting where it is, I think, is actually quite savvy.”
Something catchy that reflects the theme or premise
Podcast Examples: Teikirisi, Valence, Flyest Fables
Examples from Other Media: Star Trek (live action series), Dishonored (video game), Portal (video game)
Short, sweet, and to the point, these titles use 1-2 words that stick in the mind and tell you something important about the show. While this can be a very effective naming strategy, finding something short that perfectly encapsulates your story can be trickier than you think. VALENCE creator Wil Williams explains, “VALENCE was something we really had to work to come up with. We'd had the name of the novels [that VALENCE was adapted from], suggested by an old mutual back on 2012 Tumblr, but it was just... not communicable in audio, and no longer really fit the vibe. We wound up choosing VALENCE because of what it means for proximity: verb valencies and covalent bonds were the main inspirations. We loved the mix of language and science, and we loved how relational it was—how it ties everything back to not being alone.”
Even when short, your title can also act as a calling card to tell your target audience that you made the show for them. That’s what creator Morgan Givens did when naming his show Flyest Fables. “I wanted something that would resonate with my main audience,” he explains. “Young Black kids. Saying something is ‘fly’ is old school AAVE. It’s what my mom would say when my brother and I were super sharply dressed, had done something worth gassing us up a bit about. It made me think of how the kids who grew up with their parents saying things were ‘fly’ would be adults now. Some with children of their own. And, since language is cultural, I knew it would signal to them that these are their stories specifically, even if other people enjoy them too.”
A phrase describing exactly what the show is about
Podcast Examples: Dispatch from the Desert Planet, Conversation with People Who Hate Me, This Planet Needs a Name
Examples from Other Media: Star vs the Forces of Evil (animated series), Ulysses Dies at Dawn (concept album), The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (book)
In a stark contrast to our “1-2 catchy words” category above, shows in this category use as many words as they need to describe the show’s plot. Evan Tess Murray, creator of This Planet Needs a Name, says that coming up with the title was actually a catalyst to discovering the show’s heart. He didn’t originally have a title, referring to the show as just This Script Needs a Name; the title came during a conversation with a few people at Podtales. “I explained what I wanted to do with the show, and that I had no name for it,” he says. “I jokingly said, ‘This Planet Needs a Name,’ and one of them said, ‘You know, that could really work.’ And then I actually thought about it—what naming things really means. It’s a kind of ownership, often, especially colonial ownership. So I thought, what if my people deliberately don’t name the planet? That sparked a lot of the philosophical foundation of the show, and at this point I love that the title is engaging.”
There are a nearly-endless number of titles out there, not all of which fit neatly into the categories I listed above. In the nonfiction space, there are shows like The 11th (named because they drop episodes on the 11th of every month) and Deadline City (a show about the publishing industry, where deadlines are constantly looming).
In the fiction space, we have shows like Cole Burkhardt’s upcoming fantasy thriller podcast Ritual Six.
Burkardt says, “I’m so bad at coming up with names, so I tossed around a few ideas. There's a few references to the name of the community in which the story takes place that I contemplated using, but it didn't really fit the vibe of the show. Ritual Six fit because it was simple but creepy and also better informs listeners about what the show was about: rituals and the six involved.”
Another fantastical example is Eli Barraza’s The Far Meridian. When I asked Barraza about the title, they explained that it has personal significance to them. “The title came from family, as my late uncle’s houseboat was called ‘The Meridian’, and adding Far created the impression we wanted for a show about a traveling lighthouse. I’ve never met my uncle but I’ve heard wonderful stories so it was a nice homage to him.”
How to choose a title
We’ve covered common types of podcast titles and why some established creators chose theirs. Now let’s talk about how you can choose a title of your own.
Step 1: What’s important in your show?
Think about key things in your show (places, objects, themes, characters) that quickly give an idea of what your show is about. Barraza advises, “Sometimes creating a list of words relating to the plot or theme or aesthetic of the show can help. The word ‘Meridian’ was also included on a list I created relating to my show along with ‘compass’, ‘fresnel’, ‘wander’, you get the idea. Even if you don’t go with something on the list, it can often spark further ideas about your show.”
But, crucially, don’t just think about what’s important to your work—think about what’s unique about it. The words “dungeon”, “twenty”, and “critical” are certainly important to your D&D actual play, but they’ve been used so frequently that they don’t stand out at all. Try to nail down what’s unique about your specific podcast: out of all the shows out there in your genre, why should people listen to yours
Step 2: Make a list
Now that you’ve started thinking about what’s important and unique in your show, open up a blank document and just start writing down everything that comes to mind, even if you know you wouldn't actually use it. This can be a great way to get the creative juices flowing—plus, figuring out what doesn't work can actually be a great step towards figuring out what does.
Step 3: Narrow it down
After you’ve made a sizable list, you should hopefully have at least a few titles that you like enough to seriously consider. For each of those titles, figure out these things:
- Is it unique?
Input your potential title in a podcatcher to see if there's already a podcast by that name. If there is, I’m sorry, but you really need to pick a different one. It will be significantly harder to stand out from the crowd and successfully direct people to your podcast if there’s an existing podcast by that name. As Werner says, “There’s no law against having a show with the same name as someone else’s, but it may lead to confusion and potentially cost you some listeners.”
- Does it fit with your tone and genre?
Your title should ideally give the audience an idea of what your tone and genre is. Urbina believes that in addition to drawing in people who might like your show, your title should tell people who would not enjoy the show that they’re not your target audience. “I think that’s ultimately also a part of marketing,” he says. “You don't want someone that’s going to hate your show to start listening, spend however much time they spend on it, and then get angry and leave a bad review over something that was never meant for them.”
- Does it sound good when you say it?
Practice saying your title out loud, both on its own and in a sentence. Does it sound nice? Does it roll off your tongue or does it stumble as it leaves your throat? Writer and critic Rashika Rao advises, “I feel like on some level, titling something is like poetry; it has to sound good when you say it, like the assonance in Maintenance Phase or the alliteration of Flyest Fables".
Your title doesn’t have to be perfect
While titling a show is intimidating, it doesn’t have to be scary—it can be another fun part of the creative process that helps inform your show’s development. As Murrary says, “Think of your title as an invitation; you’re inviting people to become your audience. It’s less important that your title is perfect than that people will be interested and remember it. A title is a communication tool as much as—or more than—an artistic choice.”
Titling is an art, but if you’re making a podcast, you’ve already proven yourself an artist. Your title doesn’t have to be perfect—it just has to be yours.
C.N. Josephs (he/they/she) is a Seattle-based writer who’s carried a deep passion for storytelling since their seven-year-old-self made their Barbies act out tales of murder, betrayal, and political intrigue. These days, her tales are actually a bit lighter (but only a bit). His other work can be found on his website at https://cassjosephs.com and he can be found on Twitter @cassjosephs.