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Will Serial Storytelling Break Records Again?

Still think nobody cares about podcasts? Think again…

In 2014, a 15-year old murder case captured the world’s attention via this newer medium that is gaining mainstream acceptance. Evidence dissected, theories discussed, interviews held, all while Adnan Syed was behind bars, collect-calling Serial’s host, Sarah Koenig. Week-by-week, the audience was captivated, and ever growing to a staggering average of 1.26 MILLION downloads per podcast episode. Everyone was talking about it, including celebrities like Danny Zuker who tweeted at one point that “It makes me wish i had a longer commute & I live in LA.” As Adam Scott of Parks & Recreation pointed out, “@serial has taken over my life.” In November 2015, Judge Martin Welch of the Baltimore City Circuit Court issued an order for Syed’s post-conviction proceedings to be reopened, as a result of new affidavits that were filed.  Some also thought it was on behalf of this podcast.

The Wall Street Journal believed the incredible success of Serial was a “testament to great storytelling,” and I would have to agree. Koenig is a natural storyteller, and listeners maintained engagement. At its peak, it was the most popular podcast in world, the fastest to reach 5 million downloads/streams. It was the top podcast in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia. It was also in the top 10 in Germany, South Africa and India.

So, what made it great storytelling?

  1. She offered the listener great visual clues, enabling us to not only listen, but visualize it.
  2. She gave a human feel, through her genuine curiosity, excitement and disappointment as it occurred.  When people refused to be interviewed, her tone was sad. When new evidence came to light, she was excited. And in turn, listeners were attentive.
  3. Koenig made it relatable and understandable. These characters became people to us, and we became emotionally invested in the story.

On November 10, Serial season two premiered, and instead of a murder mystery, they are dissecting Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. You may remember him from national news: last May, President Obama swapped five Taliban detainees for his release from five years in Taliban captivity. As the military is investigating his disappearance and capture, Koenig will be taking us through this story in her quest for answers. What happened in the desert? Why did he leave his post? Will she break her own records? We’ll have to wait and see.

~ Samantha Koons, Account Executive, The S3 Agency


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