Episodes of “S-Town,” the new Southern Gothic-esque investigative-journalism podcast from the creative team behind 2014 breakout hit “Serial,” have been downloaded more than 10 million in the first four days of its release — setting a new record in the podcasting world.
The original “Serial” first season took seven weeks to reach 10 million downloads, setting a record at the time in reaching that milestone. However, those episodes were released on a weekly basis, whereas all seven episodes of Serial Productions’ “S-Town” were released for binge-listening on March 28.
In “S-Town,” longtime “This American Life” producer Brian Reed begins by delving into a murder mystery in a rural Alabama town. He began reporting on the story three years ago, after he was contacted by John B. McLemore, an antique clock restorer from Woodstock, Ala., asking Reed to investigate the scion of a wealthy family who had allegedly been bragging about getting away with murder. As the podcast unfolds, someone else winds up dead — and new mysteries emerge about a bitter feud and a hunt for hidden treasure. (The name of the podcast derives from McLemore’s description of his hometown as “Shittown.”)
Overall, episodes of the first two seasons of “Serial” have been downloaded more than 250 million times, according to Serial Productions. That includes about 175 million for “Serial” season 1 (which comprised 12 episodes in 2014 and three updates released last year). The New York-based company is partnered with public radio’s “This American Life,” which is produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media. Serial Productions has two other series in development but hasn’t released details about those.
In another data point highlighting the popularity of “S-Town,” the feed for the podcast series already has 1.45 million subscribers since Serial Productions released the trailer a little over two weeks ago. By comparison, the “Serial” feed has 2.4 million, and “This American Life” has 2 million.
“Serial” launched in 2014 as a spinoff of “This American Life,” with Sarah Koenig narrating the team’s investigation into the 2000 conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore. The show led to a judge granting Syed a retrial in the case. Season two of “Serial” told the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who was captured by the Taliban.
The “S-Town” podcast is free to stream from the Serial Productions’ website and can be downloaded from iTunes and for apps from Stitcher and RadioPublic. The seven episodes vary in length from 47 to 63 minutes each. The show is sponsored by Squarespace and Blue Apron.
“S-Town” is executive produced by Reed and Julie Snyder, who co-created “Serial” with Koenig. The editorial team for the podcast includes “This American Life” creator and host Ira Glass, Koenig and Neil Drumming.