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Women Are Driving True Crime’s Growth. Survey Shows What’s Behind The Appeal.

Since its launch in 2017, Audiochuck’s Crime Junkie has become one of the biggest shows in the true crime genre as it has cultivated a tight knit community of mainly women listeners. Co-host Brit Prawat sees a natural fit for women’s problem-solving nature and the true crime category. SiriusXM – which now handles ad sales for Audiochuck – says the series has the largest weekly female reach of any podcast in the U.S. and is benefiting from the connection that many female podcast listeners have with the genre.

“I think a lot of times women find themselves kind of in the role of problem solvers in their relationships or their lives, and I think that huge draw from the female audience that we have,” Prawat said. During a recent presentation to advertisers, she said it is also their style not to sensationalize the cases they present and take a victim-centric approach to their stories. “They feel this safety with us and with how we choose to tell the stories that we do,” Prawat said. “We want them to feel comfortable with us and to trust us to make a product in our show that is ethical and that is true to us and to what we want to do.”

What’s The True Crime Appeal?

The true crime genre’s connection with women listeners has driven a rapid growth in the genre. For instance, there has been a 207% year-over-year increase in true crime content published to Simplecast. And Pew Research says one quarter of all top podcasts fall into the category, making it home to the most popular shows. SiriusXM’s podcast use study released last year also found that true crime is the most binged category, with two-thirds (67%) of listeners saying they like to listen to episodes back-to-back in a single listening session.

“It’s important to understand that women are the driving force behind the success of this category,” said Sophie Anderson, Associate Director of Podcast Sales Marketing at SiriusXM. “After all, female listeners make up two-thirds of the true crime audience overall. And it’s the number two genre for women, falling on the heels of comedy.”

Anderson thinks one of the appeals of true crime to women is that it is a genre where female hosts have been leading the way, with creators such as Laci Mosely, the force behind Scam Goddesses, and Kylie Low, the creator and host of Dark Downeast. There is also Julia D’Ambra, creator of Audiochuck’s CounterClock and Park Predators. And Crime Junkie, which Prawat co-created with Ashley Flowers.

“This representation definitely goes a long way with female listeners who overwhelmingly gravitate towards shows hosted or produced by women, thanks to the nuances and perspective they provide,” Anderson said. She thinks true crime also appeals to women since it covers topics that have historically been considered too controversial or taboo for the mainstream media.

Edison Research’s Women’s Podcast Report released in 2022 found that four in ten monthly podcast listeners said that it is important for podcasts to discuss topics that are controversial. And 55% of female listeners said it is important that podcasts feature unfiltered conversations that cannot be heard elsewhere. “For female listeners, the majority state that this candor is part of podcasting’s appeal,” Anderson said.

SiriusXM’s 2023 Podcast Listening Trends Report also concluded that the appeal of true crime is not about the gory details. Instead, listeners are a deeply empathetic group who are in search of justice for the victims. It found 89% of female true crime listeners like to solve mysteries, 83% like learning about the methods used to solve the crimes, and 79% say true crime podcasts allow them to escape their own reality. “More than these key motivators, true crime draws female listeners and because it gives them a chance to escape their day to day and feel empowered to actually help solve these mysteries,” Anderson said.

Emotional Connection With Hosts

Beyond a question for justice and escape, the research finds true crime podcasts also touch female listeners at an emotional level. The Podcast Trends Report data shows 69% of female true crime listeners feel they have a personal connection with the hosts of their favorite podcasts. And 66% say they feel emotionally connected to the victims in the episodes. There is also a social element at play, as 61% say their friends and family listen to true crime podcasts, with one in three saying they follow a podcast on social media to connect with other fans of a show.

“We’re at a stage now where networks like Audiochuck are driving huge positive real-world change in the criminal justice system, and female listeners want to be a part of that,” Anderson said.

True crime creators take more criticism than hosts in many other genres. Prawat said she has learned to let most roll off her back. But she said because of the care they put into the show, when they get criticism about an episode from a member of their listener community or law enforcement, they cut deeper. But when that happens, she said they try to learn from the experience. “That involves a lot of listening and being considerate, and being open to learning,” she said.

High Comfort With True Crime

SiriusXM’s research found there’s nothing for advertisers to worry about, with only three percent of podcast listeners finding true crime shows distasteful. In a recent survey, true crime listeners described advertisers in the true crime category with positive attributes and they also act after hearing ads.

“The vast majority of female listeners are comfortable with the content,” Anderson said. “And they say that brands appearing in their favorite shows make them even more likely to recognize the brand and remember the campaign.”

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