The Serial Effect On The Podcast Industry

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November 8, 2015 by johnnyseifertradio

Vulture has announced that post-Serial, the podcast that has had 90 million listeners through word of mouth, Adnan Syed will be re-trialed:


Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 17.31.32


As of February 2015 it has 68 Million downloads worldwide which now in November would be around 100 Million viewers I am estimating. With Adnan being re-trialed, due to the success of Serial, the media worldwide are going to be keeping a close eye on the trial. This has led me to wonder what the impact will be for Serial as a podcast and the podcast market.



If Sayeed is found guilty, will listeners faith in Serial stop? I think I would be slightly disappointed in Serial as we have taken Koening’s word for it that he is not guilty. Listeners to the podcast are radio nerds and casual podcasts listeners and not in the criminal justice system and therefore have been passive with the information that they have been told. Therefore, if found not guilty why should I listen to season 2 airing soon if the first ‘storyline’ ended up not changing the verdict? Secondly, after Serial aired it led to new podcasts such as Undiscovered on AudioBoom amongst other podcasts being produced. Again, if found not guilty will there be a gap in the market for a new innovative podcast to take place that does not focus on a single real life court case?

Not Guilty

On the other hand, if Adnan is found not guilty, the media will sensationalise the Serial, American Life podcast and showcase its excellence into the mainstream. It would open a lot more potential advertising spots on new podcasts that would like follow suite. It would also help us in the podcast industry to be valued amongst our peers in sociological, psychological and business fields that have universal gravitas for their work which is over looked in the micky-mouse radio industry that we work in. Furthermore, in Britain it would mean there is potential for BBC Radio 4 Extra who aired the series over the Christmas 2014 period to invest in further international content and have specific broadcast slots for podcasts. This would mean airing podcasts and having the cross of podcast format to radio which is lacking especially in the UK as Michael Hill, Radio Player recently discussed on Twitter:



Off the top of my head the podcasts that I can think of that have had an effect is as previously mentioned Serial being broadcast on Radio4Extra, Russell Brand being produced in house at AudioBoom and broadcast on XFM (now Radio X) and Helen and Olly from Answer Me This having a version of their show broadcast on BBC5Live but thats where it ends.




The Way Forward For Podcasts


Above I have displayed the top 5 podcasts from iTunes Podcasts and as one could see bar one, they are all reproduced content from radio shows. One of the reasions for this is access. Les Hollander, Spotify spoke at the RAIN Summit 2015 about the access that his research has shown. For taxis, users are going to Ubers whilst Sppotify is listened to 79% of the time in cars and the same to an extent can be said about podcasts.Kermode and Mayo, BBC Five Live produced by Somethin’ Else has more or less the equivalent listeners to their podcast as they do to their radio show broadcast on a Friday which has led it to being a firm favourite in the Itunes Podcast top 10. The reason for this is that it is easier then ever before to link a smart phone to the car through bluetooth. However, if you are like me in an old car, my 2004 Polo I connect my phone to a wire that goes into a tape that is placed in the tape machine.


The Problem with Podcasts


I have had many discussions with radio professionals about why podcasts do not work as well here in the UK and the answer is finances. In the USA there are many podcasts, a lot that are produced from NPR (National Public Radio) but here there is a lack. Jenny Smith, Maxus pointed out at the RAIN Summit that when listening to podcasts we are more attentive and therefore there should be some form of sponsorship for the mobile audience. Sponsorship comes from websites such as SquareSpace and Mailchimp rather then big branded companies such as 02 that are currently sponsoring the Radio X Breakfast show. But then the issue is how does the company benefit? Podcast listens are not THAT big to make an effect on their trading so why do they need to use product placement? However, if this content was to air on commercial radio there is the incentive for the companies to sponsor the podcasts. But, the same can not be said for BBC stations, which as Ross Adams stated at the RAIN Summit has an increase of 36% year on year. An example of this is BBC Radio 4 has had 145 million podcast downloads since 2012 when Apple reinvented the podcast after six years of it disappearing.


If the Serial podcast has led to Adnan being found not guilty, will radio stations be brave in commissioning more podcasts to be broadcast?

What is your opinion on the Serial Effect?

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