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True crime podcasts are as popular as ever

/ 05:25 PM January 18, 2022
serial podcast etx

The podcast “Serial” aired between October and December 2014 on U.S. Public Radio (NPR). Image: Serial Productions, a New York Times Company via ETX Daily Up

Crime doesn’t just pay for criminals. It’s also a big hit with podcast creators specializing in true crime cases. These have become particularly popular in recent years, with such shows featuring among the most listened-to podcasts of 2021, according to Pacific Content.

The firm analyzed 432 podcasts appearing in the annual rankings published by outlets like Esquire, Vulture and The New York Times in the run-up to the holidays. It turns out that true crime stories account for 17% of the podcasts mentioned in these year-end lists.

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Only shows belonging to the “Society & Culture” category are more cited (33%). But, as Pacific Content points out, this classification system is by no means perfect. Until a few years ago, iconic true crime podcasts like “Criminal” and “The Serial Killer Podcast” were listed under the “Society & Culture” banner.

Yet, audio series about true-life cases are not new. The first of the genre, “Serial,” aired between October and December 2014 on U.S. Public Radio (NPR). It was an immediate hit, and American listeners were kept on the edge of their seats for 12 episodes as the show explored the circumstances of Hae Min Lee’s death in January 1999 in Maryland.

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A world of true-crime fans

The true crime genre has been a major factor in revitalizing podcast production in the United States, and now includes popular forensic shows such as “Dirty John” and “My Favorite Murder.” Their audience? Fans of crime stories who are often hooked on detective stories and investigative shows such as “Bring in the Accused.”

Contrary to what one might think, many fans are women. Amanda Vicary, an associate professor of psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University, is not surprised by this.

“My research suggests that women are drawn to true crime because of the information they can learn from it, even if they aren’t aware that that may be the reason they are listening,” she explained to Spotify in 2019. “In my research studies, women, compared to men, were more likely to be drawn to true crime stories in which they knew they were going to learn about the psychology behind the killer.”

Basically, the interest in crime stories is nothing new. Court cases led to the first massive print runs of the 19th century. As such, their appeal in podcast form seems to be a relatively logical continuation. JB

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TAGS: National Public Radio, podcasts, psychology, streaming, true crime
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