Ham radio podcasts suffer the same attrition as all other podcasts. Almost all of them close shop after only a few episodes. You can count on one hand those ham radio programs that survived their first year with regular production.
I think podcasting is over-hyped and that some producers make it seem so easy that a lot of people assume they are up to the task.
Most are not.
It can be grueling work with little or no financial pay-off. All podcasts begin with a load of enthusiasm that quickly runs out when it’s realized that listeners are staying away by the billions and the six hours a week it usually takes to crank out something decent begins to feel like hard work.
One ham radio podcast that has defied those odds is SolderSmoke, produced by Bill Meara, M0HBR (N2CQR) along with Pete Juliano, N6QW. Unlike the others, this one just keeps going and going. I began listening when it first launched in 2004 or 2005.
In the beginning, Meara was in London and his co-host, Mike, KL7R was in Alaska and the program was pitched as “tech talk between two radio amateurs”.
Tragedy struck early in 2008 when KL7R was killed in an accident. I stuck around for many episodes after that to see how Mike would make the transition from tech-talk between two buddies to a single host. He did a good job and has continued to crank out programs ever since.
For some reason, the program fell off my podcast radar at some point and I quit listening. I knew that it had continued to be produced despite my absence, but I managed to avoid it. Then I subscribed again last week and listened to the latest SolderSmoke program.
It was the same show, same Bill, and still very good.
There are obvious reasons why this program has avoided fading. First, Bill is a good communicator who is obviously passionate about sharing his unique spin on the hobby. He’s also diligent about publishing show notes and maintaining his Web site and feeds.
But perhaps most of all, he never fell into the trap of publishing too often. He claims the program is produced “once or twice a month” but in reality it’s more like once every five or six weeks. And that seems about right for a one-hour podcast. It gives me a chance to fit listening to it into my schedule. Too often two-hour (or longer!) programs are produced weekly and I fall so far behind that I can’t catch up and end up unsubscribing.
Once a month just feels right. I can keep up with the latest programs and I actually end up missing it while waiting for the next one to hit the Web.
Keeping listeners wanting more should be the golden rule of podcasting.