“Serial” is first podcast to win a Peabody, another big milestone for podcasting

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The 74th annual Peabody Awards included recognition for some of the new media platforms that have been attracting a growing amount of interest and popularity. One of the winners was Serial, the podcast miniseries investigating and questioning evidence in a murder case. It is the first podcast to be honored with this media award.

Although the format has been around for more than a decade, podcasts have seen a strong resurgence in the past year. Overall listening is now set at 33% of the population, or about 89 million people, according to the latest Infinite Dial report.

The Share of Ear report from Edison Research backed that growth. The fall edition found that podcast listeners tend to be heavy audio consumers in general, but that podcasts take up 30% of their listening time. That data was collected when Serial was at the height of its popularity, but the report said it was no flash in the pan: “While some of the shift in podcast listening has come from other forms of media (in particular, AM/FM Radio,) much of it is simply new listening, as podcast consumers continue to bring their podcasts with them into environments and settings where they previously might not have consumed audio.”

Larry Rosin, president of Edison Research, also examined Serial more closely and its role as a sign of what’s to come for podcasting. He noticed that while only about 10% of the total population was aware of the program, 29% of people who had listened to a podcast in the past week knew about it. For such a niche program to have exceeded 60 million downloads demonstrates that podcasting’s star is going to keep rising as awareness grows.

At the recent RAIN Summit West, PodcastOne founder and CEO Norm Pattiz said, “Podcasting owes a debt to Serial that can never be repaid.” He meant the program’s role in driving awareness of podcasting to new audiences. The Peabody award deepens that debt.

Anna Washenko