Serial and the obsession that goes with it

Audio fanatics will be happy to hear that the podcast industry has produced what is perhaps its most exciting addition yet. In a series which is perhaps one of the most riveting, suspenseful dramas the year had to offer, we learn to enjoy binging, but not in the usual sense of Netflix or HBO.

Serial is a weekly podcast hosted by This American Life producer Sarah Koenig. Each week, a new instalment is released as the story investigates the case against Adnan Syed, a convicted felon who claims to be innocent of strangling his ex-girlfriend, Hye Min Lee, to death back in 1999. As Koenig investigates Syed, the court, other suspects, and inconsistencies, the audience alongside the host herself speculate the hidden truth behind this bizarre murder, which to the horror/delight of fans, is entirely real.

Aside from having one of the most gripping storylines of any crime investigative series, Serial has also reformed the art of podcasts, introducing the dramatized hook and cliff-hanger usually restricted to TV, books, and films. Koenig’s analysis of aged evidence sheds light on lacking alibi’s and perhaps inadequate initial investigation, inducing concerns that the case is unsolvable despite thorough efforts to reach a conclusion. The ambiguity of the evidence and witness statements creates a suspenseful element as the audience realise that the outcome could be life changing for Syed and others.

Podcast advertising company, Podtrac cites Serial as having one million listeners per episode. The release of the iPod by Apple in 2001 saw rise of the podcast industry, with the creation of shows about anything from sports to science and everything inbetween. Despite popularity of podcasts like Radiolab, Serial is the first to gain such a positive reaction and fan base. Fans have created forums about the series and there’s even a podcast about it, courtesy of Slate magazine. Binge watchers of Netflix may be transformed to binge listeners of podcasts and what’s more – like radio listeners, they can multitask while enjoying the show – a novelty unknown to those constantly peeling their eyes away from the screen.

Described by New York Magazine, as “the great podcast” renaissance, Serial is an inspiration to all advocates of podcasts and its popularity reminds media consumers that the greatest visual elements of all are the images created by the mind. Stripping back the layers reveals the vulnerability of a story and by far and near, this is a good one.

Scout Mitchell

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