Forget Serial. Invisibilia is the new poster child, as the tide rises for podcasting

DOWNLOAD ON PODCASTS logo 03 with podcastone 300wThe Download on Podcasts is a new weekly feature sponsored by PodcastOne.

For the last few months, the NPR podcast Serial has spurred awareness and interest in a podcast resurgence, motivating predictions of rampaging audience growth. Serial was classified as a podcast blockbuster when it attracted five-million accesses (downloads or streams) on iTunes. This week NPR reports that Invisibilia, a show about unseen forces shaping the lives of individuals, has gotten 10-million listens, less than a month into its run.

invisibilia 250wComparing audience metrics for Serial and Invisibilia is not apples-to-apples, though. Serial is (assuming an upcoming second season) a pureplay podcast, promoted on This American Life broadcasts, but not aired terrestrially. Invisibilia is programmed on over 250 NPR radio stations — a colossal promotional advantage leading to some degree of time-shifted listening, as opposed to pure online loyalty.

Still, a new plateau of podcast audience reach helps the whole genre of on-demand audio. Podcasting is a 10-year-old phenomenon that created a noisy splash among the Internet citizenry when it was introduced. Then its buzz faded. In the last year, podcast networks like PodcastOne and Midroll Media have been developing new buzz, traffic, and revenue before Serial made headlines. They are creating portfolios of owned and co-distributed content, serving as producers and ad networks. Headline programs like Invisibilia help them indirectly, as consumers increasingly develop online listening habits around talk shows, and begin seeking out programs that aren’t necessarily discovered on the air.

NPR’s adoption of digital products and streaming audio, plus its network heft, have created cross-platform success for several public-radio shows that are archived as podcasts. That opportunity exists for radio generally, where talk shows turned into podcasts could provide a friendly on-ramp to competitive streaming, which has, until recently, been all about music.

Edison Research has been tracking podcast listening scientifically. The company’s ongoing Share of Ear survey work recently revealed that podcast listeners spend much more time with podcasts than with AM/FM radio — a benchmark that illustrates a broad migration pattern.

Brad Hill