So let’s go back to the beginning of the story.
The crew at This American Life had the resources, the talent, and the interest to create something that, while hardly new to the world, was new to the audio space: A true crime saga – investigated in almost real time – and told in serial form over 12 episodes.
Now they could have created this show and dropped it into iTunes like so many podcasters have done before and since. But they didn’t. They did something else.
They put it on the radio.
The entire debut episode.
The one that whetted your appetite for everything that was to follow.
And they didn’t just put it on the radio, they put it on public radio. And they didn’t just put it anywhere on public radio. They featured it as an episode of one of America’s most popular radio shows (and podcasts), This American Life, and they thus “stole” a prime show and a prime slot on hundreds of America’s finest public radio stations.
And then they proceeded to “steal” the attention from that same public radio ecosystem.
Don’t misunderstand my terms. I make no value judgment here. I would advise anybody who could to do exactly this – but not everybody can. Few have a launch platform as powerful as This American Life.
So here’s what Serial has achieved:
– The show hijacked the #attention, time, and listening of public radio fans and moved a portion of it off public radio per se
– The show hijacked the relationships that exist between local public radio stations and their listeners by gathering emails for fans of Serial, thus launching new – and direct – relationships off the public radio grid (I can’t do that for Fresh Air, can I?)
– The show circumvented the “you support the station, the station supports the show” business model by linking support directly (superficially at least) to Serial, the show.