How Serial podcast engages an online community

Kristen Taylor

“We’re having a moment where a distinctive voice is more valuable in news”, explains Kristen Taylor, audience development specialist and community editor for the second season of Serial, the award-winning podcast phenomenon.

Opening the news:rewired conference, today in London, Taylor said publishers’ traditional focus was on statistics for audience feedback, but she outlined a handful of more innovative ways for them to engage their online communities.

Here are Taylor’s tips for a successful relationship with your audience:

  1. Tumblr, she said, was a ‘second site’ for the Serial podcast. Not only was it a platform where they could interact with users, it also enabled people to ask questions using its unique anonymous interaction tool as ‘not everyone is comfortable with public sharing’. As a result of this anonymous sharing, Tumblr was able to provide a ‘better sense of what people are interested in and how you can keep them involved.’
  2. Don’t just look at participation numbers. ‘When you’re just looking at volume,’ she said. ‘That’s not going to give you the right amount of analysis’. Avoiding looking at just the numbers, she added, would free up time to research the demographics, interests and online personas of avid consumers. Look at all of this, including research into the people who dislike your content, is a much better use of time and resources. In-depth analysis of this kind, she added, could allow publishers to unearth problems and positives around their content products and then work on ways to create a wider audience.
  3. Don’t over-respond. Twitter, Taylor said, is one of the most useful assets for bringing together a community of followers, but don’t get too bogged down in replying to everything at great length. Using Twitter polls for feedback, and by responding in an informal way to tweets, publishers can gain all the insight they need and build a larger fan-base just through their social interactions.
  4. Search GoogleTrends. Publishers can gain access to the top questions asked about their product simply by looking at Google Trends. Responses to the most commonly searched for questions can then be pushed out via Twitter. In Serial’s case, they responded to the most commonly asked questions on Twitter using vague remarks – such as ‘soon’ – when questioned about when the next season will be. By doing this, she said, the publisher still managed to create a buzz before the real answers to those questions could be published.

You might be interested in …