Ah, Night Vale. "A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep." Also: the setting for the most downloaded podcast on iTunes, Welcome to Night Vale.
Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the twice-monthly series is broadcast in the style of small-town community radio, and you could be forgiven for lapsing into contented repose at the soothing voice of narrator Cecil Baldwin reporting on pledge drives, neighborhood power outages and local football teams. Right up until you hear about the hunt for fugitive Hiram McDaniels, a five-headed dragon wanted by the Sheriff's Secret Police for insurance fraud. "Where David Lynch meets The Twilight Zone" is how one reviewer describes it. In Night Vale, things are ... a little different.
At a little over a year old this summer, Night Vale had already earned a respectable following - and then it suddenly exploded in popularity. According to Fink, as of this June, "the episodes had been collectively downloaded about 150,000 times. The following week, they were downloaded another 150,000 times."
A surge in Internet fandom, particularly on Tumblr, helped spread the word and create legions of new listeners. Fans by the thousands are so invested in the storytelling that they pore over each episode, create amazing fan art, write fan fiction, and cosplay as their favorite characters.
It's amazing what good storytelling can do. Your brand has a story. It might be about the founder of the company, the lives of your employees or your brand's culture and mission. Your fans may be engaged, but could they be Night Vale-engaged?
Watch the latest episode of "The Content Brief" from Freshwire below for more on the podcasting phenomenon. And all hail the glow cloud!
And catch up on Apple's plan for iTunes Radio with our last episode, right here.