Following months of waiting and anxious speculation, the second season of Serial debuted today, Thursday, December 10. This time around, it’s going to have a larger presence on Facebook — and Facebook appears to be using the season launch as a way to gauge users’ interest in podcasts, allowing Serial to run experiments with streaming audio.Facebook is running a podcast preview test with Serial. In November, the social media company announced a feature called Facebook Music Stories — a post format that streams clips of songs from iTunes and Spotify. (Users can then click through to buy a track.) Facebook Music Stories will now support seven-minute previews of Serial episodes, with an option to click through and listen to the full episode on iTunes. The episode previews will work for Facebook users on iPhone and desktop.
Serial’s first season was downloaded about 100 million times, and has remained among the top-5 podcasts on iTunes since 2014.Serial’s second season focuses on the case of U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who disappeared from his base in Afghanistan under mysterious circumstances in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban and held for five years. Bergdahl was charged with desertion and court hearings began this fall.
Facebook’s experiments with Serial are only a small part of the increased distribution that the podcast is aiming for this time around — symbolizing just how much Serial changed the podcasting industry in only a little more than a year. Pandora is the “exclusive streaming partner” for the second season; as we noted in November:
According to Pandora’s press release, the music streaming service will make episodes of season two available on its own platform Thursdays at 6:00 a.m. EST — the same time Serial will also be making the podcasts available on its own feed, which flows into iTunes and other podcast apps. All of season one will be available on Pandora starting November 24, and This American Life will also stream on Pandora in early 2016.