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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.

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.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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