S-Town

‘S-Town’ is an American NPR podcast series, that was created by ‘This American Life’ producer Brian Reed. “The first few episodes of the seven-part series comprise a baffling, rapidly expanding set of mini-stories, involving one narrative twist after another about murder, mental health, impending societal collapse, and clocks” (1) The podcast itself can be accessed on their independent website ‘https://stownpodcast.org/‘.

The story behind the podcast “all started with an email. A man named John B McLemore sent a note to the general email address of the podcast This American Life, with the subject line “John B McLemore lives in Shit Town, Alabama”. Reed, a producer on the show, scanned the email and decided to take it to the editorial team, even though he wasn’t exactly sure what the story was, other than a small-town resident with a large vocabulary complaining that the scion of a wealthy family was bragging that he got away with murder. He invited This American Life’s producers to come investigate for themselves.”(2)

Podcasts have become increasingly popular over the years in both the US and around the World which can be shown through the fact that 40 “40% of the US population has listened to a podcast in 2017 – up from 36% in 2016” and “50% of all US homes are podcast fans” (3) The use of the podcast medium to tell this story was a very clever choice to make, as it allows the producers to do things differently to mainstream Radio or Television, by telling a compelling story through the use of phone calls and sound effects that let the listener use their imagination. Reed himself claimed, “The podcast format would free us to do things that we couldn’t pull off on the radio” (2) Reed is most likely talking about telling the uncensored story of a mentally troubled man, something that most definitely wouldn’t be allowed on the mainstream radio.

S-Town became extremely popular, as in the first month alone, the seven-episode series “was downloaded more than 40 million times That beat previous records set by Serial’s second season and is several times larger than the podcast audience for the pioneering show This American Life, which started on public radio in the 1990s” (4) This podcast and it’s form of storytelling has had so much success because “in short, it seems the podcasting world is now at a point where it’s both early enough — yet big enough — that excellent new hit shows can zoom far beyond recent prior hit shows, and that those audience numbers can be meaningfully large”(4)

In my opinion, the podcast was very interesting and the twists of the stories that it entailed were very well executed. You can easily tell that the podcast was well produced and well researched, it deserves all the recognition it can get.

References

(1) Vox. (2017). S-Town is a stunning podcast. It probably shouldn’t have been made… [online]
Available at: https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/3/30/15084224/s-town-review-controversial-podcast-privacy [Accessed 5 Nov. 2017].
(2) Locker, M. (2017). Bittersweet home Alabama: S-Town, the next podcast from the makers of Serial. [online] the Guardian.
Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/mar/28/s-town-podcast-makers-of-serial-brian-reed-julie-snyder [Accessed 5 Nov. 2017].
(3) Stands, T., Us, A., Policy, P., Disclosure, A. and Tester, O. (2017). 2017 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research From August 2017) – Podcast Insights. [online] Podcast Insights.
Available at: https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/ [Accessed 5 Nov. 2017].
(4) Recode. (2017). What S-Town’s success says about the state of podcasting. [online] Available at: https://www.recode.net/2017/5/9/15592044/s-town-podcast-ira-glass-nicholas-quah-million-listeners [Accessed 5 Nov. 2017].
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