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"Serial" makes a surprise return to the air

The hit podcast "Serial" made an unannounced return to the airwaves in early December, debuting a second season of thrilling mystery and intrigue. According to the Guardian, the first season of "Serial" was wildly popular, and it was the first podcast to reach 5 million subscribers in the Apple iTunes store.

Not only does "Serial" have an immensely dedicated following, but advertising company McKinney reported that the series was instrumental in getting more people interested in podcasts. 

What is "Serial"?
First debuted in October of 2014, "Serial" is the recounting of a real-life tale of love and murder, presented online in a series of weekly podcasts via streaming content or as a downloadable MP3.

Over the course of 12 episodes, investigative journalist and "Serial" narrator Sarah Koenig recounts the tale of Hae Min Lee, a high school senior who disappeared in 1999. A month later, her body was discovered in a Baltimore area park, and her former boyfriend was convicted of the crime. Upon being found guilty, 17-year-old Adnan Syed was sentenced to life in prison.

Koenig was presented a Peabody Award for her coverage of the trial, which not only picked up a dedicated following, but helped to challenge the strength of the case, according to the Peabody Award website. 

Over the course of  "Serial," Koenig presents thousands of pieces of evidence, including documents and trial testimony, as a way of challenging the validity of the case. The New York Times reported that Koenig's recounting of the trial was so rich that a judge in Baltimore actually re-opened the case.

What the numbers say
The story was so compelling that "Serial" helped to increase the popularity of podcasts overall. McKinney reported that "Serial" turned many folks onto podcasts and also captured the attention of listeners in ways other series have not.

According to McKinney's survey, 23 percent of "Serial" subscribers reported that it was the first podcast they had every listened to, and 90 percent of first-timers said it changed their opinion on podcasts overall. Some 89 percent of first-timers went on to try other podcasts, and as of this summer, 49 percent reported listening to podcasts weekly.

"Serial" subscribers also engaged with the series very passionately. While just 57 percent of respondents in McKinney's survey said they give their full attention to their favorite series, 93 percent of "Serial" listeners reported giving their full attention when listening.

Another 93 percent of "Serial" fans discussed the series with friends and families. Just 44 percent of people subscribing to other podcasts reported talking about the series at length.

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Season 2
The second series focuses on an unrelated story, a young man deployed to a remote base in rural Afghanistan. Under the cover of darkness, Private Bowe Bergdahl slips away from the army outpost, only to regret his decision minutes later. According to the "Serial" website, season 2 is now available online.

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