How to Conquer the Airwaves: 4 Podcasting Lessons from Serial

Since its debut on October 3, 2014, Serial, This American Life’s wildly successful younger sibling, has been downloaded more than 80 million times. That’s 10 times the population of New York City. Thanks to Serial podcasting is enjoying a spot in the limelight. Part of this phenomenon has to do with the prevalence of smartphones, but a large part of podcasting’s popularity has to do with something quite simple: excellent storytelling. Storytelling is a key part of any marketing strategy and podcasting is an ideal format for telling your brand’s story. Whether you’re a media powerhouse or an indie author, podcasts enable you to share the things you are passionate about in a personal, entertaining way. Here are some ways a podcast can benefit your brand:

1. Brand Loyalty

I first heard about Serial from the This American Life podcast. Over the years, I have come to trust the team at This American Life because they consistently deliver informative, engaging stories on a wide variety of topics. The first time they advertised Serial, I immediately subscribed without listening to a single episode, because I trust them.

Podcasts give you a look behind the screen, as it were. You can read dozens of articles and tweets in a day without considering the person who wrote them, but when you listen to a podcast, you actually hear someone share their ideas. This is a critical point for brand loyalty, since listeners will learn that you are not only knowledgeable about a subject, but also a real, passionate human being.

2. Easy to Consume

Each episode of Serial is around 30-45 minutes, which is the perfect length to get you into the story before leaving you on a monumental cliff-hanger until next week. Seriously, Sarah Koenig? It’s amazing how fast an hour goes by while listening to a podcast. I rarely spend that much time reading articles.

Thanks to smartphones and iPods, you can listen to podcasts anytime and anywhere. Podcasts are especially great to listen to while working around the house, walking the dog, or driving to work. Also, since a podcast is a continual audio feed, listeners are more likely to be exposed to 100% of your content, instead of skimming for the high points.

3. Content Versatility

No episode of Serial is quite the same. Sure, the podcast follows the same general structure (who could forget the Mail Kimp intro), but the storytelling adapted to the content. Sometimes Sarah interviewed people who knew Adnan (the central character), sometimes she recreated the events cited in the court evidence, and sometimes she just reported the facts of the trial proceedings.

Podcasts lend themselves to this flexibility. You don’t have to be chained to a standard Q&A or even a narrative to be successful. You don’t even need a whole team to create a podcast. Many of the top-rated podcasts consist of a host with a microphone–that’s it! If you already have a blog, use the transcript as a blog post, or supplement the podcast with an in-depth article. Or a meme. The sky’s the limit.

4. Engage Listeners

By the 6th episode of Serial, I would wake up on new episode day and start listening immediately–before drinking my coffee, and that’s saying something! Often on that day I would get a text at 8 a.m., if not earlier, from a friend who was also listening that would say, “OH MY GOODNESS THAT EPISODE!!” We then spent the next several hours discussing the nuances of the story and sharing our opinions.

Serial packages a complicated, emotional news story in a way that makes you feel as if you have to share what you hear with others. Listening to the people involved with the story talk about their experiences and give their perspective made me care about the outcome in a way that I had not expected it to. This is the power of podcasting. Words and ideas seem to have more potency when they are spoken.

More than one-fourth of people who who consume audio media listen to podcasts. Start planning yours today and join the movement.

Tell us your favorite podcasts in the comments!

Autumn PrivettWriter/Editor

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