SINGAPORE (Feb 25): One of the biggest cultural phenomena in North America in recent years is called the Serial. No, it is not a book, a radio programme or, indeed, even a TV series on Netflix or Hulu. It is actually an award-winning investigative journalism podcast hosted by veteran journalist and TV producer Sarah Koenig, who narrates a non-fiction story over several episodes. Currently in its third season, the Serial podcast episodes have been downloaded a whopping 350 million times. 

If you thought long-form investigative journalism had died with the struggling global newspaper industry, you probably have not been paying attention to podcasting. Journalists have simply moved on to other media to tell their stories. Over the years, podcasters have built a loyal core of listeners and are finally starting to see real revenues as advertisers seek to hitch a ride on their coat-tails. Procter & Gamble Co, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Amazon Music and ZipRecruiter are among prominent US corporate advertisers that have been steadily increasing their ad spend on podcasting. And everyone is embracing podcasts. Billionaire media baron Shari Redstone, who controls media giant CBS Corp and Viacom, reportedly catches up on news and features by listening to podcasts on her iPhone.

Early this month, music streaming giant Spotify announced it was acquiring two podcasting firms, Gimlet Media and Anchor, for US$343 million ($463.8 million), and vowed to pour in up to US$500 million more to build a large podcast platform, including further bolt-on acquisitions. Indeed, Spotify Technology founder and CEO Daniel Ek likened his plans to invest in original podcasting content to a Netflix-like build-and-they-shall-come strategy of splurging on content to attract customers. “Audio — not just music — would be the future of Spotify,” Ek wrote in a blogpost last week. 

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