Well, it’s official… I’ve hopped aboard the Serial bandwagon. Developed by the creators of This American Life, season one of the 12-episode true crime series follows Sarah Koenig on her quest to uncover the truth behind a 1999 Baltimore murder. I was captivated from episode one, binge-listening my way through the rest of the program. I’m glad I listened early on, as I can now follow the post-conviction relief hearing for Adnan Syed – the convicted murderer – which began last week. Although podcasts turned 10 years old in December, like many Serial fans, this was my first actual experience with the medium.
According to industry experts, the unprecedented success of Serial has marked a turning point for podcasting. All of the buzz surrounding Serial, as well as other popular podcasts like NPR’s Planet Money and Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist, has generated new interest in the power of the podcast. Radio veterans are switching teams, brands like Netflix and GE are testing podcasts for content marketing, advertisers are experimenting with the newly profitable medium and subscriptions are booming. In fact, according to researcher Edison, about 46 million Americans listen to podcasts per month.
How can this be? Let’s take a closer look at the medium…
• Podcasts are more intimate in nature than other mediums
• Listeners develop a stronger relationship with shows/hosts of choice
• Endorsements/advertisements coming from the mouths of popular, trusted hosts seem more authentic and less disruptive
• Podcasts thrive off niche popularity, by catering to specific audiences/interests
• Americans spend more than three hours a day commuting, working out and performing other tasks accompanied by audio entertainment
• Podcasts are mobile friendly and on demand, making them highly convenient
• The medium has less constraints than radio broadcasting
Considering the rising popularity of podcasts, as well as the medium’s proclivity towards storytelling, are podcasts the new public relations frontier? After all, what are PR professionals if not storytellers? And, if audiences continue to flock to the medium, we will have no choice but to follow.