The 'Serial' effect of Podcasting

Podcasts are back. While traditional journalism continues to change with advancing technology, the recent popularity of the podcast 'Serial' has seen podcasts and audio journalism develop as one of the most powerful mediums in contemporary convergent journalism.


  1. The rise of new technology has placed increasing pressure on traditional journalism, driving many journalistic mediums to undergo rapid and dramatic changes. Philipp Rottwilm identifies these changes in The Future of Journalistic Work: Its Changing Nature and Implications, analysing the recent convergence of media such as print, photographic and film and how it has challenged demartmentalised news organisations.
  2. Rottwilm states: “Mastering newsgathering and storytelling techniques in all mediaformats (‘multi-skilling’), as well as integrating digital network technologiesand a new producer-consumer relationship have become the biggest challenges of journalism in recent years”(p. 13).

  3. However, not all forms of journalism have been effected in the same way. With over 33,000 radio stations around the world and 2 billion radio sets in use (one radio for every 3 people), radio and podcasting has become an increasingly popular medium used by journalists.
  4. More than a decade old, podcasting is in no way a new concept. However, last year Washington Post stated that from 1999 the number of monthly podcast listeners had tripled from 25 million to 75 million listeners a month.
  5. This has become known as the “Serial effect”. The 12-part podcast series, which generated nearly 80 milliondownloads, reviving the esteem of audio journalism. Although the World EditorsForum (WEF) has recognized “the audio revival didn’t commence with Serial” ‘The Podcasting Revolution’ has been listed as one of the top digital developments in the WEF’s Trends in the Newsroom for 2015.
  6. There is a distinct power that the human voice has given podcasting, providing podcasters with an advantage over other journalistic mediums. The conversationalist style of storytelling matched with the intimacy and emotion conveyed through audio has the ability to captivate listeners in a unique way.
  7. Christopher Lyndon, an ex- New York Times and Nation Public Radio Journalist describes the power of audio as "something that newspapers can only dream about... they all have an institutional envy (of this)".

  8. We've seen that the emotion conveyed through audio now has the ability to exceed the power of print. Audio illustrates non-verbalmeaning, is less intrusive and more authentic. It breaks down visual identifiers and stigmas which may be formed surrounding a person’s appearance, yet simultaneously provides the content to create vivid mental imageries.
  9. Julie Posetti and Siobhan McHugh state that audio journalism “invites each listener to co-create the story, rather than be the passive recipient of images on TV, or static words on paper or a screen”(p.60). It can be produced relatively cheaply, needing no expensive accessories, and can be easily distributed and made accessible to a wide audience. It can be produced relatively cheaply, needing no expensive accessories, and can be easily distributed and made accessible to a wide audience.
  10. Serial podcast Producer Julie Snyder Meets Cannes Lions TV
  11. These elements of audio journalism and podcasting have aided Serial to become an international success, however Serial is not the first, nor the last, to utilise these tools.
  12. ABC radio broadcaster, Triple J, first aired the ‘Hack’ program in early 2004. The program follows "current affairs, music, politics and culture", keeping "youth in mind" and although the program continues to air live five days a week, like many radio programs, Hack also utilises podcasting. This allows listeners to download and listen later, or re-listen, to the stories in the same way listeners can listen to programs, such as Serial, when it suits them.
  13. Publishing via podcast exclusively can act as an advantage for journalists, liberating them from competing for programmers, timeslots and radio stations. However programs, such as Hack, have been able to enhance their programs by live-to-air in conjunction with podcasting. This has given the journalists the ability to report on news while breaking, provide live updates and engage in ‘Social Journalism’ (p.16) where the journalists communicate directly with listernes and and users on blogs and social media sites such as Twitter.
  14. Recent tweets from 'tripleJHack':
  15. See the article below for the other #TrendsinNewsrooms for 2015: