So You Want to Start a True Crime Podcast…

A guide to coming up with ideas, making them good, and avoiding common pitfalls. And how Norco 80, an excellent true crime pod, came together.

A guide to the sub-genres: from the popular to the prestigious

In the podcasting gold rush, the true crime genre is among the biggest motherlodes. But it’s a lot more varied in form and approach than its reputation suggests. It is not all about serial killers—or Serial. Rebecca Lavoie, podcast critic and the co-host of the true crime commentary podcast Crime Writers On…, offers a helpful taxonomy to the riches of the field, which, she points out, “encompass[es] dozens of subgenres and formats.” It ranges from buddy chat and commentary shows like the hit true crime comedy pod My Favorite Murder, which combines irreverent comedic banter with morbid descriptions of true crime cases, and first-person investigations that foreground an amateur or professional quest, such as Serial and Caliphate; anthology series like Criminal; to long-form series that carefully unravel a crime and its lasting impact, such as Season 1 of In the Dark, which outlines how the botched investigation of the abduction of Jacob Wetterling “fueled national anxiety about stranger danger and led to the nation’s sex offender registries.”

Not all subgenres are created equal, of course. Some subgenres accrue prestige, while others gain audience traction. Prestige podcasts, such as investigative reconstructions, not surprisingly, tend to be harder and more resource-intensive for independent podcasters to pull together, compared to [...]

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