Don't take it as an insult, but many people, mostly women, might be using your podcast as an aid to get to sleep.
Women appear to experience a calmness from listening to true crime, the soothing voices involved and the protection they feel from “knowing how to catch criminals” and prepare themselves for the unexpected.
A sense of comfort and true crime podcasts
Shanda Gimson uses true crime podcasts to lull herself to sleep, turning the lights off and pressing play on her favourite true crime podcast. She is soon in the land of nod.
“My friends think I’m crazy," Gimson told CNBC Make It. "They don’t understand how I could fall asleep listening to a true crime podcast.
“It was never something that came off as scary to me. It was always a sense of comfort.”
TV shows and movies had been the primary way to consume true crime, but in the last decade, podcasts have become increasingly popular. Of the top-ranked podcasts on Apple and Spotify, true crime is the most common topic, according to data from the Pew Research Center taken during a six-month period in 2022.
More than one-third of Americans who listened to a podcast in the past year say they regularly listen to the true crime genre, according to another Pew Research Center study from 2022. And women are more than twice as likely than men to opt for true crime.
Being in control
“This is a trend that goes back a long way,” says David Schmid, an assistant professor of English at the University of Buffalo. “Much earlier in the 20th century when people started to realize a majority of crime fiction readers are women, it was met with a similar kind of surprise and shock.”
Schmid studies pop culture and crime in the media and says that the correlation between women and true crime makes sense.
“The interest in the subject comes from women’s awareness that they are the victims of a vast majority of interpersonal violent crime especially crimes like serial murder,” Schmid said.
Watching a TV show or listening to a podcast also allows women to “handle this fear in a way they can control,” he continued. "You can turn off the TV or turn off your laptop or close the book.
“It’s the way you experience the fear. You experience some of these feelings but in a way you are in control.”
True crime narrators are comforting podcast companions
Gimson asserts that true crime podcasts always lull her off to sleep.
“The narrators for true crime, their voices are always unique in that they have a calm, comforting voice whenever they’re narrating,” says Gimson. “I find that easier to fall asleep to than if I’m listening to an upbeat podcast.”
Gimson is reminded of the spooky stories she loved hearing when camping in Canada and she bonded with her grandmother when watching true crime television shows.
“My grandma would be like, ‘You could watch this with me, but keep in mind this didn’t even happen close to us and this person is in jail now,’” Gimson says. “I guess the sense of reassurance from them would always put those fears at ease.”
True crime can be educational for women
Amanda Vicary, an associate professor of psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University, believes that women also find true crime content educational.
“My research shows that women like true crime because they can learn something from it,” she says.
“They can learn how not to be killed, essentially. They like true content where they learn the signs to watch for in a killer or they learn what to do if kidnapped. By learning how people end up the victim, they can keep it from happening to themselves.”
Playing the detective
For Gimson, listening to true crime podcasts makes her feel like an investigator searching for clues.
“You’re kind of doing your own detective work as you’re listening,” she says. “Thinking, ‘Can I solve this before the end of the story?’ It just really gets my brain going.”
True crime increased Gimson’s interest in human behavior and law. “There’s definitely a research part of it that I find super interesting. If I could go back, I’d want to be like a criminal lawyer,” she says.
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