Delivering 10 Million Podcast Downloads in Four Days

Key takeaways

S-Town, an investigative journalism podcast developed by the creators of This American Life and Serial, is breaking download records and making podcast history. StackPath supports its success by providing fast podcast downloads and uninterrupted streaming experiences.

  • In less than four days, S-Town was downloaded more than 10M times
  • In the days that followed, it was downloaded another 6M times
  • In a little more than a week, it attracted 1.8M subscribers and rivaled the subscription base of its predecessors


Production of another record-breaking podcast

The creators of Serial and This American Life were in the midst of producing a new podcast named S-Town that would tell the story about horologist John B. McLemore and an alleged murder in Woodstock, Alabama. Given the success of their previous podcasts, the team knew they needed a fast, reliable content delivery network (CDN) that would ensure a flawless download and streaming experience for listeners.


Offer fast downloads and uninterrupted podcast streaming

The podcast team began using Highwinds CDN (now owned and operated by StackPath) in 2014 to support the growing demand for This American Life. With the creation of S-Town, they knew they needed a strong delivery infrastructure to make episodes available through fast downloads and uninterrupted streaming.


S-Town handles production; StackPath handles mass delivery

If you’re not familiar with how CDNs work, here’s a crash course. Files, which can include images, audio, video, games, software, etc., are pushed to the CDN or pulled from the publisher’s origin servers and then cached on edge servers located at points of presence all around the world. As listeners download or stream content, they receive the file from the network location closest in proximity to them. The CDN not only improves the listening experience for the end user but also eliminates stress on the publisher’s own infrastructure.

In cases like the S-Town phenomenon, the operations team doesn’t need to worry about keeping up with a massive spike in demand because plenty of server capacity is already in place to easily and efficiently deliver the downloads and streams.


Successful delivery of one of the world’s most popular podcasts

All seven chapters of S-Town were released on March 28, 2017. In fewer than four days, S-Town was downloaded more than 10 million times. In the days that followed, it was downloaded another 6 million times, totaling 16 million downloads in the first week of release.

In addition to StackPath’s CDN being instrumental for handling high traffic demand and distributed audiences, it also delivers a number of real-time analytics that podcast producers value. S-Town uses PRX’s Dovetail ad serving technology built to work with the Adzerk platform. StackPath analytics, which are available in the CDN console and via raw logs, can be integrated with data from the origin servers and the ad platforms to show the whole picture of how a single piece of content is performing.

Company Description

S-Town is a podcast from the creators of This American Life and Serial that broke download records and made podcast history.


Media & Entertainment

Use Case

Podcast downloads and streaming