“Suddenly, the podcast was sexy”: an ecological and social movement theory approach to true crime podcast phenomena
In recent years, true crime podcasting has exploded, both in number of podcasts and popular culture visibility. These podcasts act as organizations with maintenance orientations, such as mobilizing resources, competing with other organizations, increasing legitimacy, and focusing on sustaining foundings and preventing mortalities. This population also exhibits isomorphism and development of organizational form and identity. Some of these podcasts have social movement orientations as well, particularly in relation to criminal justice reform goals. As social movement organizations, they view listeners as constituents, mobilize resources, created relationship networks with similar organizations, and work to establish collective awareness and legitimacy. This study explores this media phenomenon from the perspective of organizational ecology and social movement theories using a mixed methods approach. A demography of true crime podcasts was conducted in order to find a sample approaching a population, identify dates of foundings and mortalities, and calculate population density over time. Content analysis of news articles mentioning “true crime podcasts” was conducted to measure public legitimacy of the true crime podcast population. Additionally, 12 true crime podcasters were interviewed, and their interviews were analyzed qualitatively to further explore this phenomenon in light of theory and emerging concepts. Evidence of true crime podcasts’ orientations as both maintenance and movement organizations was discovered, as well as the way these entities exist as hybrid or dual organizations. Emerging themes and motivations for true crime podcasters are also discussed.