How An Unlikely Podcast Made It Big

After finishing Serial and doing some further research on the podcast, I have come to realize how effective it truly is. What do I mean by effective? I mean to say that despite a small budget, mountains of doubt and a seemingly straightforward case, Sarah Koenig was able to make something from nothing. Koenig even says about the series that the case just happened to fall in her lap. Initially, it was a low-profile case that had been settled legally, but when Koenig gets her hands on it and opens it up, she finds tons of inconsistencies and faults in the prosecution.

One article that I found (and posted to Zotero) was a perfect outline of Serial’s unexpected success. Apparently many people had a sizable amount of doubt about the production of this series. It had a pretty low budget and was produced mainly from a makeshift home studio. Not to mention Sarah Koenig’s method of reporting on this case was somewhat unconventional. For one, mysteries aren’t typically produced through this media. Also, her friendly demeanor and casual tone madethe podcast feel as though you were sitting around a table with some friends and one of them has this crazy story about their weekend.

Because of Serial’s storytelling nature, many fans felt like they were a part of it just as much as Koenig was. People started flooding her with e-mails and calls at home. All of whom seem to want to talk casually about the case. In response to her audience’s reactions Koenig says “There’s this thing where they assume we’re friends. People feel like they know me.” I find this ironic. At one point in talking to Adnan, after about thirty hours on the phone, Koenig says she feels like she knows him and this sets him off. Adnan claims there is no way that she can know him that well. Meanwhile, her invested audience feels the same relationship with Koenig as she feels with Adnan.

Throughout the podcast, Sarah Koenig takes a very lax, yet intriguing authorial position. Her narrative voice is consistently strong, but without conflating the listener’s thoughts of the information. She doesn’t even know what she thinks about the case. *Spoiler* In the last episode, she even admits she can’t swear that she thinks Adnan didn’t kill Hae. However, Koenig clearly believes that Adnan is innocent, or wants to believe that, but can’t fully support her claim. She is always flip-flopping her perspective of the case and can never solidify any of her opinions about it.

As Adnan was finally granted an appeal for his trial, it will be interesting to see what the outcome will be and what the second season for Serial will be like. From what I’ve read, season two is expected to come out in the fall of 2015. In the reopened case, they will be sampling DNA from various pieces of evidence found near and on Hae’s body. This could put a whole new spin on the case, or else just confirm the previous conviction.

3 thoughts on “How An Unlikely Podcast Made It Big

  1. Devon McMillan

    It’s amazing to realize that while listeners around the world are listening to Serial, they are following the story of a real-life person. This adds a new dimension to the podcast. When I listened to this, I was impressed with the creativity that could be found in a murder case with barely any factual evidence. I think that simply the fact that Serial is non-fiction and allows listeners to connect with the story of this completely real kid, is a large reason why this podcast became so successful (along with the perfectly melodic voice of Koenig).

  2. Colleen McGarry

    Your comment on her tone and demeanor is spot on, it always seemed like she was kind of like “hey guys, you’ll never guess what I found out!” I also love the irony about her audience feeling close to her, it kind of helps to explain how Koenig managed to feel so close to Adnan. When one person is speaking constantly to you about their feelings and opinions, you may tend to feel as though you know them.

    1. Stephen J. West

      I agree with Devon and Colleen on this one–her voice is so conversational and inviting, and her interest in the case seems so sincere that it definitely has an affect on the audience’s relationship to the case. In many ways, her voice might be the device that most makes her a stand-in of sorts for the audience, if that is indeed how we view her position in the narrative.


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