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Thanks to 'Serial' & Apple's Podcasts app baked into iOS 8, podcast listens grow 18%

Though podcasts are not a new medium, the format has seen significant growth over the last few months, attributed in part to the fact that Apple's Podcasts app is now built in to iOS 8.

Between the spring and fall of 2014, podcast consumption in the U.S. grew 18 percent, according to new data from Edison Research. Two factors are believed to have contributed the most to the recent growth spurt for podcasts, according to AdAge: The success of "Serial," and Apple's decision to include Podcasts in iOS 8.

Starting with the launch of iOS 8 last September, iPhone users found Apple's official Podcasts app automatically included, and unable to be removed, from their device. That, along with buzz for "Serial," is attributed with pushing podcasts to the mainstream.

A spinoff of the hit public radio show "This American Life," "Serial" took the podcast world by storm last year, with a unique structure investigating a real-life murder case. The episodic nature of the podcast, stretching the one case out over 12 episodes, proved to be a huge hit, leading to more than 68 million downloads.

Serial was recognized by Apple in its Best of 2014 iTunes awards as the "Best New Podcast" of last year. Apple, of course, helped to popularize podcasts a decade ago, when support for the medium was included in iTunes 4.9.

The name podcast itself is a reference to Apple's iconic iPod media player, though the downloadable Internet radio programs can be played across a variety of devices. Listeners can download individual episodes or subscribe to a series, having new episodes automatically delivered through "podcatchers" like Apple's own Podcasts app for iOS.

AppleInsider recently launched its own podcast in which editors discuss the week's top stories. New episodes are released on Fridays, and listeners can subscribe via iTunes or the official Podcasts app for iOS.