When Sarah Koenig first started her series of podcasts, entitled “Serial”, we doubt she anticipated this level of interest and response. For the last week, as Koenig geared up to share her last thoughts across the airwaves, a flurry of social response reached peak interest on Thursday, as listeners tuned in for the final details of the case. Would Koenig be able to prove Syed’s innocence? The question remains, how did the audience feel about it? Do they believe Syed’s innocent?
The first reactions to the show began on October 3rd after the initial podcast aired. From there, we can see a clear progression as the show’s popularity grows throughout the duration of the broadcast. The spikes in conversation occurred on days that hosted the broadcast, which was played weekly on Thursdays until the show’s completion. The proportion of sentiment over time shows how people quickly became obsessed with Serial and loved it, but may have become frustrated with it over time as they realized the murder of Hae Min Lee might not get solved as a result of Koenig’s investigative journalism.
Because the entire podcast centered around Adnan Syed, and whether he actually committed the crime or not, there were key comparisons that Koenig makes to identify competing theories for Lee’s death. Koenig focused on Jay, a friend of Syed’s, and the main witness against him, who some think was lying or potentially guilty himself.
As new information came to light after each episode, people’s feelings about Syed and Jay would evolve and shift. Sarah Koenig pretty clearly thought that Adnan was innocent, and she had spent a lot of time getting to know him. What we found through the sentiment trend graph for Adnan was that most Twitter users didn’t necessarily agree with her. Negative conversation stayed much higher than positive throughout the course of the podcast season. In fact, negative mentions of Jay and Syed were pretty similar.
The striking difference between the conversations about Jay and Adnan was that a significant portion of people seemed to feel positively about Adnan, while Jay didn’t have the same support of any kind. If Twitter conversation splits over Adnan, would it happen in a jury box? Jay it seems, would not have anyone committing to speak for his innocence.