I measure download links for podcasts through Podtrac. I haven't been doing as many podcasts as I used to do. But I checked my podcast stats the other day and was kind of shocked.
Typical download stats for podcasts in the past averaged about 700 downloads per episode. For example, take a look at this podcast report and you'll see that in 2011, when podcasting was supposedly popular, average downloads were about 600-700 per episode.
Since that time, I thought podcasting had gradually declined. Most amateurs realized that it takes a long time to create podcasts -- without much payoff. Big media companies produce more compelling media, and listeners only have so much time.
Further, webinars (a medium I actually hate) seemed to take the spotlight for the preferred medium of choice for technical communicators, since you can carve out time during your work day to listen to them. (Speaking of webinars, in the above image, you'll notice that the "Slides and recording for the 'Perfecting the audio narration in instructional video'" episode had only 18 downloads. This is because I had the Podtrac code applied only on the mp3 download link, not on the online audio player link. This again blows my mind -- the preferred way people listen is by sitting at their computers listening to the audio.)
Perceiving a decline in podcasting, I focused more on writing, started listening to audio books from Audible, and thought that amateur podcasts would largely disappear in a few years. But looking at the most recent downloads, I'm questioning those assumptions.
In interpreting the stats, I have several takeaways here. First is that podcasting is not dead. If the information is available, people will consume it regardless of the medium. Second is that API documentation is an extremely hot topic. A series of podcasts focusing on API documentation makes sense. Third is that maybe it's time for me to dust off that microphone and start podcasting more seriously again.
My concern with jumping into API doc in podcasts, however, is that this highly technical subject won't come across well in audio. It would instead be much better with an accompanying screen. This is fine because apparently most listeners are sitting at their computers. My other concern is that, in my experience, technical topics make for boring presentations. People latch onto conceptual information more readily when listening to presentations or podcasts. But maybe I'll give it a try, especially if using the screen.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.