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No one expected less of the "Serial" podcast than the two women behind it, NPR's Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder.
"It kind of felt like a pretty sleepy project," said Snyder, the senior producer of "This American Life," who teamed with producer/occasional "TAL" host Koenig. The pair will be in Park City on Saturday night to talk about "Bingeworthy Journalism."
The subject matter for Season 1 wasn't extraordinary an investigation into the 1999 murder of a Maryland high-school student, Hae Min Lee, and the conviction of her former boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for the crime. And yet "Serial" zoomed to the top of the iTunes charts before the first episode was released and stayed there for weeks.
"It was very surprising to us that it took off the way that it did," Snyder said in a phone interview with The Tribune. "I mean, when we first started making 'Serial' we were doing it in the basement of Sarah's house. She had a little makeshift recording studio set up with blankets and pillows to try to muffle noise. And we would have to pause recording when her kids would flush the toilet upstairs. It was kind of a DIY project.
"And that was actually very freeing for us to feel like nobody's going to listen."
They couldn't have been more wrong. "Serial" became a sensation downloaded more than 175 million times. It won a Peabody, the first ever for a podcast. It was even parodied on "Saturday Night Live."
"That was just weird," Snyder said.
The attention as episodes were released weekly in late 2014 proved overwhelming.
"It blew up in such a way that it was scary for us, to be totally honest. We felt like wanting to go into a hole," Snyder said. "It felt too public. We felt like we had lost control of the story, and that was really scary."
They have since released Season 2 an investigation into Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan and has been charged with desertion. And "S-Town," a seven-part podcast about the strange happenings in a small Alabama town, produced by Snyder and Brian Reed (who also hosts), was released on Tuesday.
Koenig and Snyder will talk about all that when they appear Saturday on the Eccles Center stage in Park City. But probably not about the upcoming Season 3 of "Serial," the subject of which remains a closely guarded secret.
"It's really fun to talk to people who are just as interested in this stuff as we are," Snyder said. "We're not used to getting so much feedback, other than what you can get in a Facebook comment."
For Koenig, the live appearances are just an extension of what she does on "Serial" and "This American Life."
"For somebody like Sarah or Ira Glass or Brian Reed, to an extent those guys are performers anyway," Snyder said. "For me, it's definitely different. I'm the one who's the editor and the producer. Nobody knows who the hell I am."
Until they attend one of these events, scheduled at various venues across the country.
"Initially, I felt really uncomfortable because we had sort of holed up a bit," Snyder said. "But now time has passed and I think I've made sense of it more so I'm more comfortable now."
NPR's Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder talk about their work on the incredibly popular "Serial" podcast.
When • Saturday, April 1, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Eccles Center Theater, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City
Tickets • $29, $49 and $79 at ecclescenter.org, the box office or 435-655-3114