Last Updated on September 13, 2022 by Ben Oakley
True Crime Podcasts are an Artform
As a true crime author and fan of true crime podcasts, I hear time and time again that true crime is exploitative. But what artform is not exploitative? Wait, artform?
That’s right, podcasting is as much of an art form as writing a book, a blog post, making a movie, painting Rose on the Titanic. Art is fundamentally exploitative and true crime podcasts are part of that – because podcasting is an artform.
Not because true crime podcasts exploit the real people involved in the stories – legacy press do a good enough job with that – but that podcasting is an artform and something mainstream press cannot compete with.
There’s something that true crime podcasts have that other types of podcasts don’t, unless you’re Joe Rogan who can pretty much talk about what they want and still win the audience. That something is – community.
For at the beating heart of a true crime podcast is a desire to know the truth, to unveil the secrets, expose the demons within, and understand the world around us.
Here are 8 of many reasons why true crime podcasts are freaking awesome and why they serve an important function not just as an artform but as a subject important to historical study!
1. Increasing Popularity
Is that a reason to listen to true crime podcasts? Yeah, it is, and if you’re reading this post you’ve probably got a couple lined up ready for the journey home or just before bed. A couple of episodes that is.
In 2021 in the UK, there were almost 20million podcast listeners and that number is set to increase. In the United States in 2020, almost 40% of the entire population listened to a podcast on a monthly basis.
And guess what? In 2021, True crime podcasts accounted for around 20% of all podcasts out there. The most popular were comedy and news podcasts with true crime coming in third place, which is huge.
2. Pandemic Proof
God forbid, should we ever experience another surge of that virus that won’t be mentioned on this site, then podcasts won’t be going anywhere.
An estimated 60% of all podcasts in the world now were started during the pandemic era, and many of them were true crime. The fact that books and podcasts are relatively simple to produce with minimal equipment means they may well be around forever.
Having a pandemic-proof artform and business means that podcasters can continue to provide their listeners with the episodes they want, and listeners can carry on with their favourite podcasters.
3. Teaches and Prepares Us
Two in one for this reason! Listening to a true crime podcast can teach and prepare us to avoid falling into the same trap as those we hear about.
When we listen to stories of missing people, murders, robberies, and the like, we think it will never happen to us but there is a nagging feeling that the possibility still exists.
If we recognise the signs from the stories we hear, they give us hope that we can protect ourselves better, to understand what to look out for.
We avoid dark alleyways on the walk home at night, knowing that in the shadows, danger could lie in wait. We are privy to email scams, unwarranted stares from strangers, nearby dangers that perhaps we had ignored before.
All of this comes from crime news or true crime podcasts and books. Without them, we may be a little less prepared for the dangers that could be hiding nearby.
4. Goes Places Others Can’t
Though controversial in some fields, true crime podcasts can talk about and look at things from a far different perspective than that of law enforcement and legacy press.
Now, it can be dangerous because podcasters are NOT law enforcement, nor do they have press affiliations, but exceptions do exist. In fact, I wrote a true crime code of conduct for true crime creators to follow, to avoid falling into trouble with their work.
True crime podcasts have been responsible in the past for solving cold cases, catching suspects, exonerating wrongful convictions, and bringing justice to the families of victims, where law enforcement and press have failed to do so.
That is incredible, more so when many true crime podcasts are funded from the podcasters own pocket and with minimal access to official case material. It’s the ‘going places others can’t’ that intrigues us the most.
5. Problem Solving and Web Sleuths
We’ve gone from community researcher to armchair detective to web sleuth in a matter of decades, but all were created with the utmost desire to solve a problem, usually that of an unsolved crime.
An unsolved crime is a puzzle and true crime podcasts feed that puzzle with as much information as they can gather, theorising where there is no hard evidence to fall back on.
As web sleuths, we are always looking for something new and novel, good or bad, something that we can put our thinking caps too.
We do the same when reading a mystery or crime novel, both art forms require us to venture to a dark place but from the comfort of our own homes. All true crime inspires the detective within us.
6. A Fascination with Motives
Ever wondered WHY another human being decides to kill dozens of other humans? You’re not alone. Understanding motives is one of the many psychological reasons why we are drawn to true crime.
There is a dark side to human curiosity, but only in as much as we want to know how far others have gone and how we can prevent those like them from falling to such depths. It’s a natural part of human nature to have an interest in the darker side of humanity.
The question of what has driven a person to commit a crime drives our interest in certain cases. We hope that in understanding why they fell to such depths, we can in turn learn more, not only about ourselves, but the world we live in.
7. Historical Studies
This site was built on the basis that true crime is a subject important to historical study, and we stand by that every step of the way. Many true crime cases contain more historical data of a region, community, and people than many academic history subjects.
If we look at historical true crime cases from the early 20th Century, what do we find? Not a lot, because record keeping was poor, evidence has been destroyed – purposefully or accidentally – and solid research is difficult if not impossible to carry out.
Now jump forward to the year 2122, 100 years from now. Someone interested in criminology or true crime might decide to look at a murder case from 2022. And what they find is a wealth of information, data, statistics, profiles, and research that has been kept in the public domain ever since, a snapshot of a time that once was.
You see how easy it would be to solve a case if we had all the evidence and research in front of us? This is why true crime podcasts are a subject important to historical study.
Doesn’t escapism mean that true crime is entertainment? In a way it does, but that’s not a bad thing. Reading about what makes true crime popular might go some way to help explain that.
Understanding that true crime consumption is a safe experience is one way to understand why so many people incorporate it into their daily lives. And podcasts are one of the ways we can escape the rut of reality by listening to someone else’s story.
Though there is often a perceived threat of crime, in reality that threat is minimal, and so we can escape into a true crime story as we would a fictional one.