For two months, all anyone talked about was "Serial."
The podcast, which averaged over 1.5 million listeners an episode, dove into the case of a Adnan Syed, a Baltimore-area high school teenager convicted in 2000 of the strangling death of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Week after week, the podcast revisited witnesses, detailed court documents and gave listeners a window into the court system.
Listeners were hooked. They took to Reddit to discuss theories and clues. They listened to a Slate podcast about the podcast. By November, "Serial" was the fastest podcast to reach 5 million streams and downloads in iTunes history, according to the Guardian.
It's not surprising then, that social media erupted when news broke that the Maryland Court of Special Appeals allowed Syed a chance to appeal his conviction on the grounds of ineffective counsel.
Why the rabid interest in such an old case that garnered little national interest at the time?
Part of it, according to the Wall Street Journal's Ellen Gamerman, is that podcast co-creator and narrator Sarah Koenig made listeners feel like they were on the case with her. The podcast has a conversational tone, with Koenig explaining her thoughts on leads, her doubts, as well giving plenty of visual descriptions for listeners to recreate scenes in their heads.
The tried-and-true method of delivering stories in episodic form, according to the New York Times' media critic David Carr, doesn't hurt either.
“'Serial' has demonstrated that if you come up with an episodic story that leaves people eager for the next installment — a form as old as Dickens and beyond — audiences will flock to you," Carr said in a November column.
But there was some criticism.The Atlantic's Adrienne LaFrance questioned why listeners were so intrigued.
"Are 'Serial' listeners in it for the important examination of the criminal justice system?" LaFrance asked in a November article. "Or are we trawling through a grieving family's pain as a form of entertainment? These are questions much more easily posed than answered."
After the podcast ended in December, the story continued, as The Intercept published a multi-part interview with Jay Wilds, a key witness in the case that chose not to be interviewed by Koenig.
As news spread of the action by the Maryland Court of Appeals, people took to social media to comment. Most seemed to be pleased about the appeal. A few even hoped it would turn into a new episode, or maybe even a sequel.
Wow. I still think he's probably guilty, but def deserves an appeal. "Adnan Syed granted appeal by Maryland court" http://t.co/qIHFzeF3iN— Sean Watson (@seanwatson24) February 7, 2015
This. Rules. "Update: Court of Special Appeals Will Hear Arguments in Adnan Syed Case" http://t.co/H8USWk8Fb1— Melanie Baucom (@MelanieBaucom) February 7, 2015
For more national news, follow @smasunaga.
Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times