The daily commute often entails encounters with the unavoidable characters that put their bags on seats, shout down their phones or even the infamous noise leakage that plagues headphones of all varieties as your fellow passenger seem to have a distinct lack of self-awareness which could easily cause irritation if you were to allow it.
However, your body might have to be stuck on that rush hour train but your mind can be transported anywhere that you wish, you could be more productive by answering emails before you arrive in the office, but recently I found myself with a much more exciting proposition that involved sharpening my detective skills to help solve a murder case from back in Baltimore County in 1999.
Although I’m a little late to the party, many of you reading this will know that I am talking about a podcast called Serial which is a spin-off from This American Life that became the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads back in November.
The show is hosted by Sarah Koenig and focusses on the murder of a high school student Hae Min Lee and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed who was charged and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years, but has always protested his innocence.
Although a simple idea, the podcast has captured the imaginations of people all over the world as each episode reveals more information surrounding the murder case and as a listener, you find your opinion veers between different verdicts as witnesses contradict each other, but it is equally testament to the structure of the storytelling which often feels like a real life version of the HBO show True Detective.
Commuters turned into amateur crime sleuths and also flocked in their droves toReddit to discuss the case and even post photos from the crime scene to help others, leaving some on the ball marketers to ask the questions about the need for a podcast strategy.
We may have fond memories of the term ‘Podcast’ from 10 years ago before the days of cutting the cord and when an iPod was the must have gadget but the masses never really embraced podcasting as much as I had hoped.
However, over the years there has been a steady increase of how we consume material and Podcasts have been steadily increasing under the radar of the mainstream press, so maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised that a big hit has arrived and opened everyone’s eyes as it hit the mainstream.
The prospect of using a real life case as entertainment might be too macabre for some, but there is no denying that this global phenomenon is revolutionising the medium of the humble podcast and how it is being used for a growing audience who have been binge listening to this audio series in the same way they would a TV show box-set such as The Wire.
Even though, the series finished in December, word of mouth continues to ensure that there are daily stories from various news outlets speaking of alibis, reopening of the case, movie adaptations and even memorabilia.
With years on the outskirts, it seem that Serial and it’s 20 million plus listeners have transported Podcasts into the mainstream and the same people that were telling everyone they need to watch Breaking Bad are now listening to an audio show that blends both the old and new methods of storytelling together.
Tech and media journalist Simon Owens recently interviewed both Audible and Penguin Random House and discussed the effect the current podcast boom is having on audiobooks. They agreed that both audiobooks and podcasts are benefiting from an audio explosion and that both mediums are expanding the market for each other:
Ironically the technology that empowers people all over the world to enjoy a modern way of working is also allowing a whole new generation to enjoy a renaissance of storytelling that was loved by our grandparents.
As listeners are left obsessing over whether Adnan Syed is guilty or not, it seems that dinner parties and water coolers all over the world will be frequented by people asking the question Who killed Hae Min Lee?