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We wanted it to feel like a live thing … a vital thing in the sense of the word of being a living thing — as we went.
Sarah Koenig, Serial Host.
Serial is a groundbreaking and controversial re-imagination of the podcast format. Released in real-time installments, the series documents journalist Sarah Koenig’s investigation of a “cold case” murder from 1999 in Baltimore County, Maryland. Hae Min Lee, a high school student, was found strangled. Her ex-boyfriend, 17-year-old Adnan Syed, was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. Syed, however, has maintained his innocence. Koenig unearths archives of documents surrounding the case, conducts interviews with those involved or who remember the incident, revealing prejudice, inconsistencies, and other information which had never been presented to the jury that convicted Syed or to the public.
Koenig has used the podcast format to release her investigation in serialized form, as it develops. Listeners feel as though they are participating in the journalist’s investigation, and eagerly follow the serial episodes as they are released. The combination of subject matter — a true-crime controversial murder and many original interviews — compelling storytelling, and the suspense-building serialized format has brought new audiences to the podcast medium.