Thursday, Dec. 18, marked the conclusion of Serial, the podcast that is making waves around the world as it combs through evidence surrounding the 1999 case of Adnan Syed and his potentially wrongful murder conviction. (Don’t worry, no spoilers here!)
For listeners like me, who have been following along for all 12 episodes, it’ll come as no surprise just how popular the podcast is… Apple reports Serial as the fastest podcast ever to reach five million downloads, averaging 1.26 million downloads per episode, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But, beyond its sheer popularity, is Serial transforming journalism as we know it? Will PR pros soon be pitching a series of contributed audio spots instead of multi-part written bylines or guest blog posts?
While we may not be there quite yet, Serial is certainly paving the way for more episode-driven narrative journalism via long-form podcasting.
It’s ground-breaking, but, at the same time, very simple. After all, this is really no different than the days when families gathered around the radio for their primary entertainment (or so I’ve heard). And, nowadays, Serial is getting the same chatter around the water cooler as popular shows like Lost or Breaking Bad where everyone eagerly awaits the next episode. And, thanks to its on-demand nature, it’s easily accessible whenever and wherever people choose to tune in.
But, for PR pros, pitching a pre-recorded podcast – whether in series form or not – can prove to be quite challenging, if you’ve never tried it. Even if publication websites can support the audio, many brand podcasts could be seen as too self-serving or vendor-focused, requiring a paid sponsorship. And, for the podcasts that already exist like Clockwise or Hot Technologies, there’s some stiff competition to pitch your story into them and be featured… doable, but not always easy.
However, practically everything that exists today (that I can think of right now) can be consumed on a one-off basis. There isn’t anything serialized about today’s audio journalism… except for Serial.
Will this be a new way forward for both PR and journalism? With the right narrative, this could be a revolution for these industries as we know it.