Tuesday, October 16, 2012

That ham radio trend line

There's an interesting discussion ongoing on some of the amateur radio blogs about how an analysis of the number of searches in Google for the term "ham radio" is trending.  No doubt about it, if you simply look at the graph, it shows the hobby I love so much--and that I fully credit for getting me into a career in media--is trending more and more southward:

This could mean a number of things:

  • Interest in amateur radio is dwindling.
  • People are getting their info about ham radio in other ways besides searching for the term on Google.
  • They are searching for info on the hobby using other keywords, such as "amateur radio."
  • Nowadays, people search initially for information on a subject and then, if they find what they seek, they bookmark it/make it a favorite and don't search anymore on Google.
You know what my heart tells me.  Licensing backs me up.  We have more licensed amateurs in the country now than ever before in the 100-year history of the hobby.  My sense is that the hobby is vibrant and growing, and, before you give me that "rose-colored glasses" brand, I am pretty good at looking at things such as research data realistically.

On the other hand, I still believe it behooves those of us active in the hobby, those who want to see it continue to grow, expand, and become even more exciting and diverse, have to be evangelistic about it.  We have to do what we can to recruit potential hams into our little "cult of the airwaves."

That was one reason I wrote the book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO.  I want people to understand that the hobby can be much more than sitting in a basement sending Morse code.  As with most technology, our avocation has dramatically changed, and for the better.  It offers so much to younger people who have grown up with cable, satellites, computers, and smart phones, and who might think amateur radio is still what their weird uncle used to do in his back room with all that spittin' and sparkin' radio junk.  And it absolutely can lead to a career in a technical field, including computers, comunications, engineering, meteorology, media and more.

We won't panic about that trend line.  We will continue to do what we should be able to do best: COMMUNICATE!


Anonymous said...

While that trend might be worring, I'm of the opinion that most searches are likely more specific. I stopped looking for "ham radio" long ago, but now might look for "qso logging software" or "psk31 contest" or the like.

Keep blogging
Scott VA3NMI

Don Keith N4KC said...

Totally agreed, Scott. As people have become more adept at using search engines they have learned to be more specific in their searches. More and more simply use the address bar in their browsers as an extension of their default search engine, and that means they type in far more specific searches than when all this was new.

73, and thanks for stopping by.

Don Keith N4KC

Mark K6HX said...

I don't think any panic or angst is necessary. The cessation of Morse testing brought a lot of new hams in, and as they gained experience these generic queries are sloping down. That is my guess anyway. The trend does not seem to be echoed in various other measures of participation, like licensing, ham fest attendance or contest participation. Those are more direct measures of our hobby.

M6ODC said...

Hi Don,
As a newish English amateur radio operator (M6ODC) I have to say that when i'm searching for amateur radio news / information I search "amateur radio" as the term "ham radio" I see as an americanism ...if that's the right word. I.e. ham radio Is an American term used by American amateur radio stations not so much used by European stations....

73 Glenn M6ODC

Don Keith N4KC said...

Glenn, I think you have a good point there. Thanks for commenting and welcome to the world's greatest hobby. I hope I run into you somewhere out there "on the wind!"


Don N4KC

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