Serial wasn’t the first breakthrough podcast, but its dig into the murder of high schooler Hae Min Lee certainly galvanized the true crime subsection of the industry, spawning a slew of podcasts that, to this day, continue to dominate the iTunes charts. Following an underwhelming second season that broadened its scope but abandoned the true crime angle, the podcast announced earlier this month that it would pivot to an episodic approach centered around the Cleveland criminal justice system. It turned out to be a good move, as smartphones around the world are stuffing their digital guts with the debut episodes.
According to podcast measurement firm Podtrac (via Vulture), the season’s first two episodes pulled in more than 1.4 million downloads within the first 14 hours of publication. Perhaps even more impressive is the minuscule drop-off of unique downloads between the first and second episodes, with Podtrac noting that 1.43 million of the first episode’s 1.46 million stuck around for the next episode. Compare that to the second season, which, when it debuted in December of 2015, pulled in roughly 1.34 million unique downloads on its first day. Its second episode saw a notable drop to just 1.24 million unique first-day downloads.
Credit the quality for the engagement. In our review of the season’s debut, we praised the new approach. “[T]he subject matter proves much richer and potentially more rewarding. Instead of investigating how the system could have failed one person, what about the way it is failing everybody? Though this new season is in its early stages, the bones are in place for it to be the series’ most socially important.”