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On Podcasts -- Reasons for the Break and Plans for the Future

by Tom Johnson on Sep 1, 2008
categories: technical-writing

If you've listened to podcasts on my site, you'll notice that for the past 3 months, I haven't posted any new podcasts. It's also been about three months since Aaron or Scott from DMN Communications published a podcast. What happened? Is podcasting dead?

No, podcasting is not dead. But I'll explain my break.

  • I've been riding the bus/train to work for the past 9 months (I actually got rid of my old car, which I had to jumpstart each morning). I used to listen to podcasts all the time while commuting to work, but now that I can sit down on public transportation, I open my laptop and write instead. I've noticed that when I don't listen to podcasts, I'm less motivated to record my own.
  • In analyzing my own talents and interests, I think I'm a much better writer/blogger than podcaster. I don't have a radio voice, nor do I have the rhythm and balance of a Leo Laporte, who can drive a seamless conversation among 5 people for an entire hour. I decided to focus my efforts on my strengths.
  • When I stopped podcasting, I didn't hear complaints from anyone. No one asked, Tom, what happened to the podcasts? Tom, when is the next podcast coming out? However, I do track all downloads using Podtrac, and on average, each month listeners download 2,000 podcasts. (2,000 downloads may seem small, but given the small population of technical communication professionals, 2,000 is a sizable chunk of users; only about 1,300 people attend the annual STC conferences.)
  • Podcasting has no financial reward for me. In the past, I've traded advertising for software, but now that I have all the software I need or want, I need to pursue a different advertising model, which I haven't defined yet.
  • I became a bit bored with the interview format, and I wanted to switch to a more Digg or TWIT style of podcasting -- a conversation about the latest news. But I haven't put together a co-host team nor found a regular time for gathering them.

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As has happened during past breaks, I miss podcasting. Podcasting has a special community feel around it -- engaging with other professionals in my field, listening to voices rather than reading sentences, driving and learning at the same time. I just miss it. It feels good to listen to podcasts, especially to hear the voices of other technical communication professionals in my field.

I just listened to Alistair Christie's latest podcast ("Being the Only Tech Writer"), which he recorded after a 9 month absence. Apparently he began a non-tech comm role at his company for a while, and just recently switched back into tech comm again. I loved hearing the conversation -- a casual but focused exchange.

I still can hardly believe there aren't more tech comm podcasters. The field is open. I suppose given my position and the popularity of my podcast, I would be a fool to simply give it up, or cease the momentum. I'm positioned right now to be an incredible source of information for podcasts in technical communication.

Last night I was thinking about my online strategy. Blogging is really just a hobby, but I'm realizing that it is going to be a lifelong hobby. I enjoy blogging, as does my wife Jane. We often blog together. (Right now it's past midnight and Shannon is upstairs writing a post she's been telling me about all day.) When I have free time, I like sitting down to write a post.

And I like podcasting. Especially listening to podcasts while driving. One of these days I'll solidify a financial model around my online presence, creating at least a secondary income stream based on all my online activities. Podcasting is part of that plan. But even without it, podcasting has its reward. I connect with dozens of professional colleagues all around the globe.

Today I just listened to another episode of the WordPress Podcast. Episode #44, with Charles Stricklin. It was a completely enjoyable experience, making an hour of driving time pass painlessly by. If all goes well in the next month with a house deal, I should be driving more, and listening to more podcasts.

So this is a long way of saying that I'm going to be publishing more podcasts, and I hope to be more regular in my release of podcasts. If you have suggestions for podcast topics, do let me know.

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