A guide to Serial: the best podcast in the world


Just heard about Serial over the weekend, and devoured it in an evening. Normally I’d say “the best podcast in the world” is hyperbolic, but I sure haven’t ever heard a better (or more compelling) one.

Was just checking it out earlier today… Dave Winer was frustrated that he couldn’t get iTunes/etc to cooperate in downloading the latest episode.

I still like some better (Radiolab, TAL, 99%I), but Serial is very good! It’s a little frustrating, because I get the sense that there’s never going to be a real payoff for all this work. It’s pretty clear we won’t know the truth at the end ('cuz, y’know, reality), which makes me wonder what we’re building to. It’s still a fascinating look into some in-depth research and reporting, and the format allows a more wide-ranging discussion, but it’s all just one Big Shrug, which keeps me from dedicating too much brain-space to it. Compelling, though!

Also fond of StartUp, which is an insight into a weird world that isn’t always transparent from the outside.

Looks like Dave figured out a workaround but F itunes get Downcast

I’m totally hooked to Serial. I enjoyed the title of Episode 05: “route talk” a wink to TAL episode 511 The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About.


It’s pretty great, but I’m also nervous the end isn’t going to live up to all the build up.

It’s natural for me as a human to want a conclusion, an answer. If we get to the end and there is no resolution, I’m not sure I’ll be along for the next one.

TAL is so hit or miss for me. Sometimes it’s engrossing, and other times…ugh. That one episode of found recordings was just nails on chalkboard for me. I am sure there was a payoff, but I couldn’t focus on it long enough to be there when it happened. This is one of the dangers of Serial. If they pick a topic I don’t care about, I’m out for – what, 8-10 episodes?

99%i, on the other hand, is consistently fascinating. It must be my nascent designer self.

I listened to the first episode of Serial on TAL, and I decided it didn’t sound all that interesting. As others have said, you know, “reality.” I.e., we’ll never know a conclusion, it’s about injustice, innocent people, guilty people… It’s a great experience of how life and storytelling differ.
I felt bad for the kid, because the point seemed to be that he probably didn’t do it… but maybe he did. Okay, maybe yes, maybe no. Unless they drop in some kind of deus ex machina to solve it all, it seemed to be about the pointlessness of knowing anything.
When I tell stories at the Moth, I run into this all the time. My life is a random series of events, anecdotes at best. To make it into a story you have to invent a point and curate the random events into a series that makes sense to our storytelling mind.
But people seem to think it’s great, so I’ll listen to a couple more episodes.
PS - one more thing… Maybe it’s me (it’s me), but I find inarticulate people tedious. In the words of Tom Lehrer, “I feel that if a person can’t communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.”

Well, that’s RSS for you — horrible standard, too many variants, leads to unreliability. He should have a word with the person responsible…

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The thing I like is they have hit on a format - deep dive into subject matter over extended period. I think the podcast lends itself to this in ways other media does not. And nobody is offering that kind of story telling in other media either. So this first story is interesting, and it probably won’t have a satisfying end, but I can’t wait to see what other stories are presented this way. And I’m hoping it breaks out into other people telling stories this way too, on topics that Serial might never consider.

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I also share the misgivings on how this series will end. Although I find the podcast interesting and enthusiastically consume new episodes, calling it the “best in the world” seems a bit premature considering we haven’t concluded even one story line yet.

I’m always tempted to do a little extra curricular digging to find out more on the backstory but I never do. I’ll let Sarah K. tell the story and see how I feel when it’s concluded.

I don’t want to derail the conversation, but am curious what other podcasts out there share this format – there’s tons of short fiction, a lot of serialized stories, but no others I can think of that are based in a real story and told in this way. The ones I’ve found that are based in true stories tend to be more along the lines of unrelated amusing or interesting anecdotes - Memory Palace, Futility Closet, to name a couple of good examples

Ha! Heard both and didn’t notice the connection.

It’s tricky to find, but you might also be interested in an old radio series called “Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse”, about a young boy thrown to his death from a Chicago Housing Authority tower, a series recorded by two young men from that neighborhood.

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