Last week, two things took the internet by storm. The first (and far less important) was Paper Magazine’s photos of Kim Kardashian, the ones they claimed would “break the internet”. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case and left room for the second (and far more important) item: praise and obsession over the new podcast from ‘This American Life’ called Serial. If you haven’t started listening yet, stop what you’re doing and start listening. I dare you to stop after the first episode. I double dog dare you.
What you may be asking yourself is “What is Serial?” Good question. According to the podcast’s website:
Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial will follow one story – a true story – over the course of a whole season. We’ll follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in order, starting with Episode 1.
Since airing the first episode on October 1, the podcast has grown each week and is currently the number one downloaded podcast on iTunes. Major media outlets like Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed and Vulture have written about it. Slate does a weekly podcast … on the podcast. Youtube users and Funny or Die have even gotten in on the action. I could go on and on, for my own benefit to quench my thirst for all things Serial-related, but I’ll spare you.
So why is Serial so popular? As PR practitioners, what can we learn from the popularity of a weekly podcast?
- It has a compelling story/subject.
There’s a reason shows like Law and Order and the CSI franchise are popular – people are interested in crime and drama. Serial provides both and, like Law and Order, provides it on a weekly basis. Each week, listeners are taken on part of the journey to uncover who really killed Hae Min Lee. Finding an absorbing story to tell can help raise the excitement for a client with the media.
- It has an interesting voice/POV.
Serial’s host, Sarah Koenig, is amazing. The way she tells the story and makes it accessible and interesting is just one of the reasons listeners can’t get enough. By interjecting her own opinions, doubts and humor listening to her speak feels like you’re sitting in a coffee shop with a friend. Make sure the person you have talking to the media is well-informed and interesting. Even if they’re talking about a “boring” topic, if they can make it easy to understand and interesting, it will go a long way.
- It’s interactive.
In addition to all of the media attention, the general population has gotten involved too. Reddit has a forum for people to discuss the podcast and propose theories. It’s become the topic of many water cooler discussions at the office and around the table at happy hours across the country. People are getting involved and are curious how (and if!) the story will end. Creating interactive stories to engage people is a great way to raise a client’s profile.
The countdown to Thursday’s new episode has already begun.