Why more than 10 million people can't stop talking about S-Town.

If you’re yet to hear whispers (or – perhaps more fittingly – yells) about S-Town, the new podcast produced by the same team as Serial and This American Life, I guarantee you’re about to.

Our Executive Producer of podcasts, Monique Bowley, is obsessed and explains why on this weeks episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.

If you’re new to the genre, many have credited Serial as responsible for the explosion of podcasts as a story telling medium. The true crime series is the most popular podcast of all time, boasting more than 250 million downloads, and was the fastest-downloaded podcast in the history of iTunes.

Well. Until this week.

S-Town has smashed Serial‘s record, with 10 million downloads in just four days.

The plot of the series is summarised as follows on the S-Town website:

S-Town is a new podcast from Serial and This American Life, hosted by Brian Reed, about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it.

“He asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, and the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.

Brian, a longtime This American Life producer, started reporting this story more than three years ago, when he got an email from John with the subject line “John B McLemore lives in Shittown Alabama.”


The series’ protagonist, John B McLemore is more nuanced and fascinating than anything fiction could offer.

He lives with his 88-year-old mother in rural Alabama, and despises everything about it. He looks after 13 stray dogs. He has built a life-sized hedge maze with 64 possible solutions.

He has converted the basement of his house into a bizarre series of gated dungeons. He claims to have gold buried on his property, and doesn’t have a bank account. He is eccentric – displaying the characteristics of both a mad-man and a genius.


As the website states, S-Town has been in production for three years. Countless hours of recording, interviewing and narrating has been condensed into seven chapters, all of which dropped at once.

It’s been described as a “thrilling page-turner,” and one Reddit user reflected “it’s the best book I never read”.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a negative review, in fact, in all my research I’ve failed to find even one.

Headlines read “S-Town review – it’s hard to recall a more touching, devastating podcast,” “S-Town Is a Well-Crafted Monument to Empathy,” “S-Town Transcends the True Crime of Serial,” and “S-Town review: The story of John B McLemore makes for the warmest podcast I’ve heard.”

The reviews suggest that just like Serial, S-Town has reinvented what the podcast can be. It’s more than true crime, and it’s more than a mystery.

With 10 million people and counting tuning in, what S-Town means and why it matters continue to unfold before our eyes.

You can listen to S-Town on iTunes, or via the S-Town website, here

You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud (also a brilliant, life-changing podcast) here.