Serial on the Radio

I’m pleased to see that Radio 4 Extra is going to be broadcasting podcasting sensation Serial.

Starting this Sunday (i.e. the day after tomorrow), they’ll be broadcasting the series nightly at 9pm, with the final episode airing the same night as the final podcast is released.

I imagine that there will need to be quite a few trails on Radio 4 over the next couple of days to promote this!

Sidenote: We still don’t definitively know how many episodes there will be of Serial do we? Episode 10 was released yesterday, with Episode 11 coming next Thursday. If there were 12 episodes, then we could look for a “conclusion” on Thursday 18th December, with the Radio 4 Extra broadcast syncing in nicely on that date.

A lot of people have felt that Serial isn’t something that could happen on the radio. The time lengths vary quite considerably between episodes making it hard to schedule. And the language can be a little rich for some tastes. But Radio 4 Extra should be able to cope fine – particularly in post 9pm slot.

And this will be something of a departure for the channel, which mainly consists of comedy and drama. But following last week’s Chris Morris special (You have three more weeks to listen), they’re on a roll!

But why put Serial on the radio anyway? Well I think there are a couple of good reasons:

1. It’ll reach a wider audience. Listening to a radio station is easy. Listening to a podcast is… less easy. Sure, I can subscribe easily enough. And so can you, dear reader, probably. But many can’t. DAB sets are in many homes, and this genuinely gives some people an opportunity to hear something they’d have otherwise missed.

2. It’ll be on iPlayer. I suspect that there are a number of people who will get something via iPlayer that they don’t feel able to get via a podcast. (I still wish Radio was available on TV versions of iPlayer though.)

Measuring the broadcast’s success will be nigh on impossible. A programme stripped over less than two weeks in RAJAR? Not a hope. But it’ll be interesting to see what kind of feedback the station gets.

Now I’ll be honest and say that I still really don’t like the practice of “stripping” programmes across multiple days. As I’ve said repeatedly before, it makes massive demands on the audience. And that’s especially true for a series that you need to listen to day after day. It’ll also be going out at 9pm, which means that there’ll be prime time TV to go up against.

But it’s also about making a statement. On New Year’s Day, Radio 4 is giving over practically its entire schedule to a new version of War and Peace. In reality, very few people will stay with it all the way from 9am to 9.30pm. There are those New Year’s Eve hangovers to combat for starters. But the series will also get a more regular weekly run afterwards. But it does make a statement. The broadcaster is saying that this is important.

I think it’s a bold move by Radio 4 Extra to broadcast it, and to be applauded. Whether it’ll sound the same without, “Actually, I use Mail Chimp…” I don’t know!

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