That's what I mean though: Serial is about "what happened?" It's mostly about plot ,like a page-turner thriller novel. I'm not saying I don't remember Adnan at all - just that I don't find him, personally, a particularly compelling or rich figure (Sarah Koenig, to be honest, is the most interesting, most complex figure to me in that story). I'm also not saying either that both podcasts don't both build. They do build, but they are building different things, and from the comments I've seen, generally, people are, in fact, disappointed that S-Town is not more like Serial in that it's not about plot and "what happened?" If they are set up to think it is going to be about plot - that's not what they're going to get - and, again, from the comments I've seen, people have simply stopped listening altogether when they realize it isn't about plot or they say, if they finish, "it's boring" because there's no plot-ty mystery like Serial.
So, frankly, I don't care if Ira Glass thinks the comparison between Serial and S-Town is good. He's wrong.
The comparison is slight and superficial and the comparison has set many people up for disappointment. Here are the superficial parallels I do see: 1) They are both podcasts. 2) A reporter is personally involved in trying to understand something (maybe the biggest link between them). 3) There are a limited number of episodes in each - like a mini-series rather than an ongoing sitcom. 4) They are produced by This American Life people so have a similar sort of tone.
I'm kind of thinking that because podcasting is such a relatively new medium, we just don't have the right categories yet. If you go to a bookstore, you wouldn't go to the "biography" section if you want a murder mystery. You'd go to the mystery section, and if you find a biography in that section, you'll probably be disappointed, even if it's a great biography. It wasn't what you came for. So here, too, I think we have two different genres of non-fiction, but because the two things are produced by the same people and because they are both in this new medium of podcasts, the mystery section and the biography section have gotten mushed together.
Anyway, I don't mean to diminish Serial or S-Town; they are both great. I just think insisting they are under a similar category of "thing" isn't helping.