By Hannah McKenna
Murder, mayhem, and the macabre. These are subjects that people have always been interested in. From the media frenzy surrounding Jack the Ripper in 1880s London, to the celebrity status achieved by serial killers, it’s no wonder why TV shows like LivePD and Dateline have such high viewership. What might be surprising though, is that in the last ten years, podcasts have been gaining popularity from within the true-crime community. The current top charts of Apple Podcasts are full of true-crime subjects. This audio-format allows the consumer to listen to all the grisly deaths, court dramas, and manhunts that their heart’s desire.
What is a podcast, you may be wondering? Good news is, you’re not alone in your question. As of 2018 only 64 percent of Americans had heard about podcasts, while only 44 percent of Americans had listened to one. These numbers may seem small, but in just the last year alone the number of listeners has risen from 12 million to 124 million. In the last ten years, the number of podcasts which center around the subject of true-crime have significantly increased, gaining more notoriety, and more listeners. True-crime is a very broad category, but no worries, there’s a large variety of different subjects, hosts, and formats to suit every individual’s ghoulish needs. Sub-genres are very common within the true-crime podcast world, and for each specific taste there’s a podcast to match. If you want to laugh about morbid reality, listen to an investigative reporter researching and uncovering a case, or just a causal conversation about the world of crime, there’s a multitude of true-crime podcasts for you.
To begin our dive into the true-crime podcast world, the first mention has to be the classic that helped kick start the trend, Serial. Serial, is a part of the single story, informative, and season based sub-genre. For most people, it’s either the first podcast they’ve listened to, or at least their first time listening to true-crime. Atlanta Monster, and Up and Vanished, are two more examples of this extremely popular style. The story telling and research done by all three of these shows is phenomenal and they all definitely deserve a listen. This genre is also a lot of listener’s first taste of true-crime podcasts, mostly due to their informative, narrative, and single season approach. With that in mind, Serial is a great jumping off point for anyone looking to give this genre, or podcasts in general, a listen.
If you’re looking for something with a little less of a narrative feel, and a more fact based discussion, Sword and Scale, Generation Why, and Casefile True-Crime are right up your alley. The three shows mentioned are incredibly informative, but in more of a court document way. They also feature lots of facts, details, and just the right amount of discussion to keep the listener entertained. This is a very good sub-genre for the detail oriented, and those who really enjoy learning about all the gruesome and terrifying facts.
The third genre I’ll be discussing is my personal favorite, so I’ll be a bit biased. It’s considered a sort of true-crime comedy genre. Sounds weird, right? I know, but the weirdness provides some very interesting and engaging conversations. Typically, this genre consists of two or three friends sitting around and discussing true-crime cases, the details, the gruesome facts, and sometimes the trial too. This genre is appealing, and popular, because it feels like a friendly and fun conversation with a group of friends (who just happen to be as interested in the macabre as you are). Our first podcast in this genre is My Favorite Murder. This show leads the charts of the true-crime genre, comedy as well. Hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, this comedy podcast is a discussion of a murder, with conversations about the host’s lives and misadventures sprinkled throughout. Reading my description doesn’t do this show justice, the hosts are hilarious and they have a great chemistry. If this description piques your interest, please give it a listen, really fun. Another show like this is True-Crime Garage, two best friends sitting in a garage, drinking beer and talking about crime. Really, what else does one need in life? This is another show that receives a high recommendation from within the true-crime community. Lastly, is the show Last Podcast on the Left, it’s three comedians, Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel, and Henry Zebrowski, who talk (and yell) about murders, cults, and serial killers. This show is very well researched and will keep you laughing and terrified. The guys have a great chemistry, and their different comedy styles play nicely off each other. The blending of comedy and true-crime is a unique genre that has received its criticisms as well as its praises, just like any of the podcasts listed so far. This genre does receive a bit more criticism than the others, though. Some listeners view the comedy as poor taste, and allegations have been made saying that this form of humor is disrespectful to the victims of crimes being discussed. While I’m a big fan of gallow’s humor myself, I can see how some could view this premise as disrespectful. That being said, almost all true-crime podcasts, comedy, informative, or otherwise, can be quite gruesome and definitely not for the faint of heart. Some of these shows can be very graphic, so if you’re squeamish or triggered by explicit crimes or violence, I’d steer clear. But if you are a fan of true-crime, the podcast community is full of great, and informative, sub-genres and content creators. If you don’t like one style, there’s a whole bunch of other shows that may be your new favorite. For a more in depth look at each one of the shows I’ve listed, please check out Vulture’s article “52 Great True-Crime Podcasts” written by Hillary Nelson. I’ve only scratched the surface of this true-crime phenomenon, and in her article, Nelson gives an in-depth into premises of all 52 shows. I plan on going back to her article and intend on finding some new great listens, I suggest anyone interested in true-crime do the same.
So, who listens to all this stuff? Surprisingly, the main demographic is women, per an article by Brandwatch titled “Podcast Audiences: Why Are Women Such Big Fans of True-crime Podcasts?” written by Gemma Joyce. While some may find this subject a little unsettling, it makes a lot of sense when considering how important self-defense is in women’s lives. This article speculates that the disproportional female demographic has numerous reasons. They include, learning about crimes from a safe distance, learning safety tips to prevent becoming a victim, and the style and personalities of the hosts play a large part in women’s listening preferences. This article features some great visual representations of data, and very interesting statistics as well. If this topic seems interesting to you, I highly suggest reading full the article, it’s very informative and a good read.
To wrap it all up, podcasts have been dominating the true-crime world. There’s a multitude of genres and sub-genres to explore and to get scared by. Statistically women like to learn about true-crime via podcasts the most, and prefer to learn from hosts they find enjoyable.
The only farewell from this article that seems fitting; to quote Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, hosts of the My Favorite Murder podcast, “Stay sexy and don’t get murdered.”