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From Niche Narrative to Audio Blockbusters

Cultural Significance, Economic Potential, and Three Core Elements of Storytelling Podcasts in Germany

Till Krause


For the past ten years, a transformative trend has emerged in the consumption of journalistic content, diverging significantly from its traditional engagement pathways. This evolution is characterised by the allure of serial journalistic podcasts such as Serial, which have seamlessly integrated narrative techniques typically reserved for fiction into journalistic storytelling (Kulkarni et al.). These podcasts have leveraged episodic structures, suspenseful build-ups, and dramatic climaxes to foster a level of engagement akin to fiction’s grip on audiences. This shift towards addictive media consumption is eloquently linked to the binge-watching culture of on-demand television described by Dowling and Miller, situating such podcasts within a lineage of high-calibre television narratives (168).

The concept of “binge-listening” (Krause and Uhrig 446) has emerged from this trend, signifying a consumption pattern where audiences, particularly those drawn to multi-part serial podcasts in genres like true crime, engage in extended listening sessions or eagerly anticipate new episodes. This pattern, reflective of an excessive indulgence in content, underscores the creators’ success in crafting compelling narratives that captivate and retain audience interest. Illustrative of this phenomenon are listener testimonials for Die Mafiaprinzessin, a narrative podcast series by Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine (part of Germany’s major quality newspaper), where users expressed their inability to disengage, consuming the entire series rapidly. One user stated, “I couldn’t stop listening”, and another, “I binged all episodes in two days” (quoted in Krause and Uhrig 447). But what makes serial storytelling podcasts in Germany so appealing, and which lessons can be drawn from this? This article provides answers through a historical lens and a focus on the creative process, distribution, and the transparency of journalistic research. Incorporating these sources and viewpoints, the discussion provides an overview of the cultural shift in media consumption towards serialised journalistic podcasts, highlighting their role in redefining audience engagement with media content.

Krause, T. (2024). From Niche Narrative to Audio Blockbusters: Cultural Significance, Economic Potential, and Three Core Elements of Storytelling Podcasts in Germany. M/C Journal27(2).