It’s a great time to launch a podcast given the proliferation of mobile devices and a consumers who are hungry for audio content. But the timing could not be better to launch a true crime podcast, as evidenced by the massive audiences that tuned in to the Serial podcast from the creators of This American Life. Investigation Discovery (ID), a go-to destination for fans of mystery and suspense, had several podcasts in development and was even exploring the possibility of radio programming when Serial exploded, setting a slew of records for podcast downloads.
“I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said Serial had nothing to do with our decision to start with this podcast,” says Kevin Bennett, general manager for Investigation Discovery of the channel’s first foray into podcasting. To coincide with the release of its new series, Mind of a Murderer this month, ID has released a companion podcast narrated by the television show’s host, renowned criminal psychologist and trial consultant Dr. Michelle Ward. While the podcast had been in development since the show’s conception, the unprecedented success of Serial “proved there was a big audience for this genre,” prompting Information Discovery to maintain an aggressive timeline for the release.
Bennett says he was not surprised that a podcast in the crime, mystery and suspense genre is one of the best and most successful to date. “There’s no shortage of really compelling stories in this genre. These are dramatic real stories, with real human stakes, well told,” says Bennett who is confident that Mind of a Murderer fits the bill. In it, Ward interviews violent murderers, hoping to gain insight into the reasons people kill. Bennett says that while the television program focuses a bit more on the backstories of the interview subjects and victims, the podcast provides an opportunity for Ward to delve deeper into her reactions to what she discovered during her interviews and research.
The podcast was planned as an integral part of the Mind of a Murder project from the outset For each episode, Ward and the producers take “a different editorial bent” to deliver a compelling audio experience for an audience that seeks to understand the underlying psychology driving murderers. Some content will be extras, which have been edited out of the television program for time. But Ward and the producers also identify additional information better suited to audio-only delivery.
Bennett says he has aspirations for Investigation Discovery to be “the mystery and suspense brand, like ESPN is to sports.” To achieve that, he says they work hard to “reach our audience through a wide range of digital platforms from our main website and Crimefeed.com to social media. Podcasts are a natural extension of that approach. Now we can be with audiences wherever they are.”
While the podcast does not currently contain advertising, Bennett says that they are exploring the possibility of cross-platform advertising deals. Right now, however, the primary objective is to continue to expose the ID brand to a broader range of people and give existing audiences more. In other words, he’s not measuring the success of this podcasting imitative in revenue alone. “We monitor not just how many people are listening and watching but also talking about us. And, more importantly, what they are saying. We want people to feel like they are getting something more from ID.”