Listeners Are Gobbling Up the Podcast S-Town, Here is Why

The podcast S-Town received 10 million downloads within the first four days of being released. (Todd Spangler in Variety.)

A few years ago some hick in the sticks writes into a radio show asking for a reporter’s help to solve a murder. The man was John McLemore. Without much to do in his small town, he became focused on what he thought was a whodunnit. Mistrustful of the police, he needed help to prove someone had lied. There had been a cover up of a murder.

Turns out the murder never happened so there was nothing for the radio reporter to investigate. So why are there another six episodes?

Why do we care about a town we’ve never heard of? A podcast focused here seems like a bust from the jump.

Brian Reed, the host and protagonist of the story, stuck around this shit town in Arkansas and found the story. Life imitating art imitating life in the most beautiful audio dreamboat.

1. S-Town captivated millions of us because it reveals the universal truths that bind as together as humans.

The star subject John B. McLemore is a brilliant, antique clock-restoring, tattoo-covered, loving friend and closeted homosexual who lived in the house where he grew up. He looked after his mother who suffered from dementia. In John B. McLemore we see ourselves.

How did we get here? Are we where we planned to be in our lives? We all wonder if we have lived a meaningful life.

Did we move out into the big world or did we chicken out and stay close to home? Are we really too smart for our own good or are we not good enough to make it out there in the big world?

Maybe we are satisfied with too little while still desiring too much?

2. That which is different from us scares us and we do not trust it.

There is shocking homophobia, civil war-like racism, class warfare, aging parents to care for and an overall uncertain political climate plaguing the people of S-Town. It is a microcosm of our current America. We are all doing the best we can.

3. The production of S-Town is the result of some of out best story-tellers, editors, radio producers, composers, sound and digital engineers and a bunch of other amazing people.

This podcast took three years to make! This podcast is a salesperson’s dream. All podcast ad sellers want to sell S-Town. So, let’s make more hits!

Advertisers, we need your help to produce art like S-Town. The ROI will come. Let’s figure out how to tell the stories together right now.

S-Town is an exemplary case of the under-explored, opportunity rich medium that is audio story-telling.

Thank you for the beautiful piece of art that is S-Town, Brian Reed.

Reed has been transcribed nearly verbatim from his thanks at the end of the S-Town Episode IV podcast.

Producers Julie Snyder and Brian Reed. Editors Ira Glass and Sarah Koenig and Neil Drumming. Digital Editor, Whitney Dangerfield, Story Consultant, Starlee Kline, Fact Checker and Researcher Ben Phalen, Director of Operations Seth Lind, Sound Mixer Lyra Smith, Technical Director Matt Tierney. The Staff: Emily Condon, Elise Bergerson, Julie Whitaker, and Kimberly Henderson.

Thank you to the Music Composers Daniel Hart, Trey Pollard , Alotto Negro and Matt Mcginley, Music Supervisor Damien Grave, the web designer. And special thanks to Valerie Caesar Anthony Roman, Ian Biorkman, Katie Fuchs, Kevin Broderick at the Lippan Group. Finally, thank you to Squarespace.

S.Town is a Production of Serial and This American Life.

Full disclosure. I am employed by Acast although all of the opinions in this writing are exclusively my own and not endorsed by my employer.

(Originally published on Medium August 17, 2017.)

Allyson Marino