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How Serial Went from Podcast to TV Show


Anyone who knows me or who has been following this blog for a while knows that I am a champion for the primacy of unique and compelling content.

You see, media is really about two things: Content and distribution. And distribution channels are inherently dumb conduits that need to be filled with the stuff audiences care about: Great content.

That’s true of all dumb conduits, whether they be digital, analog, TV, podcasting, or radio.

I have long argued that unique and compelling content that draws an audience is primed to carry that audience to other illustrations of the brand on other platforms. The book begets the movie begets the TV series, for example.

So you can imagine my delight when I read the Hollywood headlines to discover the uber-popular Serial podcast is about to become a TV series.

Not a retelling of the season one saga, mind you, but an all new illustration of the Serial brand – one that will have pre-sold tune-in appeal for the millions of Serial podcast listeners and one which will likely produce millions more fans, many of which will complete a virtuous circle by tuning in the second season of Serial.

More oomph all the way around.

And so you have a brand-building machine.

The podcast debuts on the radio to kick-start its audience. The audience grows progressively thanks to the captivating nature of the content. That podcast branches out to other forms in other media, thereby growing the brand across all platforms.

This is not only how Serial does it. It’s also how Star Wars and The Walking Dead and Dave Ramsey and so many other media magnets do it, too. Indeed, once you build a large following it’s hard not to do it. Dumb distribution channels are hungry for established brands and their established audiences. Just try to get a book published and the publisher’s first question will be “how big is your audience?”

What, you thought it was the best-seller that creates the audience? No! It’s the audience that creates the best-seller. Fans come first.

So here’s the recipe:

  1. Create unique and compelling content
  2. Build a large following – an audience all your own
  3. Leverage that brand – and that following – across other distribution channels with new illustrations of the brand built for each distribution channel

Now this isn’t necessarily easy. It requires that the content really be that unique and compelling. It requires more than a dash of magical pixie dust, too.

But if you attract a large enough audience, the media world is your oyster.

Just ask Serial.

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