The world of podcasting has grown a significant amount in last few years. In 2020, the Edison Research Infinite Dial report showed that monthly podcast listenership was up to 37 percent; this year’s report revealed that 80 million Americans now listen to podcasts.
One of the many podcasts that people listen to nowadays includes Crime Junkie. Hosted by childhood best friends Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat, Crime Junkie touches on different true crime cases each week, with the two of them discussing each case in detail; these range from missing persons cases to unsolved murder cases to updates and much more.
However, the podcast isn’t your typical true crime program. Rather than only speak on the cases themselves, Flowers said that she always wanted to be able to encapsulate the experience of being a “crime junkie.”
“I love crime documentaries, and I always want to go down the rabbit hole of web forums and read books about the cases … What I wanted the show to be was that if you were a crime junkie, and you went out to read and watch everything there was [about a case], I could distill it for you in 30-40 minutes,” she said. “It’s as if you were to do all of this yourself, this is what you would walk away with in knowing about the case.”
Life Before ‘Crime Junkie’
Before the Crime Junkie podcast started in 2017, Flowers had always been fascinated with the true crime space from a young age. After receiving her degree in biomedical research from Arizona State University, working in genetics research at the University of Notre Dame, and working for a few startup companies, she joined the Board of Directors for her local Crime Stoppers organization.
“I’ve always loved to volunteer, so at that point in my life, I was done with school and had volunteered for a lot of different things, and I was like ‘I want to do a volunteer thing in the space that I love,'” she said.
While with Crime Stoppers, Flowers said that they gave her some initiative to work on brand awareness for millennials as she was the youngest person on the board. She then partnered up with a local radio station for a true crime segment where she would discuss a true crime story every Monday morning; in exchange for the segment, the station would advertise for Crime Stoppers.
Eventually, Flowers’s segment became the most popular one for the radio station, but in the background, she also loved listening to podcasts.
“Ever since I found Serial, I couldn’t get enough. I was consuming as many [podcasts] as I could, but there just wasn’t a show that I could find or that I really wanted to hear,” she said. “When I was doing the radio thing, it never even occurred to me that I could be the one to tell those stories, but when the radio station segment became pretty popular, I was like ‘Maybe I can make the show that I want to make and tell the stories in more of the way that I want to tell them.'”
Welcome to the World of ‘Crime Junkie’
Flowers approached Prawat with her idea, saying that she was “the most natural choice” for a co-host from the beginning.
“[Brit] and I have literally been best friends since the day we were born; we were born on the same day and our mothers were best friends. She was truly my best friend in the world so I said, ‘Let’s give this a go,'” she said.
Crime Junkie premiered on December 17, 2017. Airing every Monday, each episode runs anywhere from 30-40 minutes, or even as long as an hour; in some cases, episodes such as the Laci Peterson case have been split into two episodes. In addition, Flowers and Prawat will post short update episodes if there are any new leads or captures regarding a case they covered on the podcast.
When it comes to working on a new episode, Flowers describes the preparation for it as “massive.”
“We have a whole team of people now, so I would say everyone’s time that goes into it, from researching, writing, recording, editing and putting it out into the world—not including any of the marketing—I think is easily 60 to 80 hours of work,” she said. “I knew I could do it for a little while on my own, but it was really hard. And thank goodness I have the team that I do now, because there is no way that I could produce what we’re doing now on my own.”
Not Only for Entertainment
Additionally, Flowers said that her goal for the show is to have a message of education and advocacy. While it is entertainment for several people, she always works in trying to relay the information she provides in a way that also impacts the space that she is in.
“I want to be able to walk away from this when I’m done with Crime Junkie someday and really feel like I was able to move the needle in true crime,” she said.
“Whether that’s with non-profits or with advocacy, whatever that is—that’s the main goal.”
Working Around COVID
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world last year, Flowers explained that the podcast industry was actually hit hard.
“It’s really funny because I’ll talk to people who aren’t in the podcasting space and the assumption they all make is, ‘Oh, your download numbers must’ve gone through the roof,’ because people were looking for entertainment, but it was actually the opposite,” she said.
“We lost all of our commuters at the beginning of COVID. Everyone was binging TV shows and things that they could turn on at home and watch. It took a long time for people to get back to their normal habits.”
Flowers revealed that Crime Junkie saw a 20-30 percent drop in its listenership, but has since gained it back as people returned to their normal routines. She also added that she and her team were practically prepared for the pandemic from the beginning.
“Brit and I have never recorded in the same space, her and I have always recorded separately. She lives in South Bend so she actually live a couple of hours away from me, and editing can be done from anywhere, so we were so lucky,” she said.
“It was a bummer not to see any other people from my office, but everything we did, we were able to do safely from home and keep things running smoothly.”
Female Voices in Podcasting
In addition to Crime Junkie, Flowers also runs her business, audiochuck, which is a female-focused podcasting company. Along with Crime Junkie, she and the company produce a number of podcasts, such as Counterclock, Anatomy of a Murder, and Full Body Chills.
Flowers explained that audiochuck was always meant to be a business for her, and she even had the LLC for it before Crime Junkie premiered.
“I technically founded audiochuck before I started the podcast. I gave myself mentally a year to see if I could make it work. And I knew that I don’t do anything halfway, I was going to put everything into this while working a full time job, and that wasn’t going to be sustainable forever. I gave myself a year to make it work and thank goodness it did.”
As she runs a female-focused company, Flowers said that when it comes to having those voices in podcasting, there are just some stories that you need to have women to tell.
“The best example I can think of is we just launched a show called O.C. Swingers, which is about alleged rape allegations that are currently working their way through the court systems in Orange County. At the height of ‘Me Too,’ this is a story that I don’t think could be told well by a man, but it is a conversation that needs to happen,” she said.
“Men need to be involved in the conversation, but I think a woman needs to tell it. Without having those voices, I think stories that are important for people to be talking about don’t get heard.”
Three Tips For Those Wanting to Start a Podcast
If anyone wants to start on their own podcast journey, Flowers has three tips for you.
Number one: don’t wait to start a podcast.
“Eventually, it’s going to become one of those mediums like radio and TV where you have to be with a big network. So if you want to start independently on your own, stop thinking about it and do it.”
Number two: find a niche.
“Though true crime was super popular when we came into this space, some people said that the last thing we needed was another true crime podcast. But we made a show that no one was making, and I wanted to hear it. If there’s a show out there that you can’t find, you’re probably not the only one looking for it. Even if it’s not a unique genre, have a unique angle or way of telling your stories.”
Number three: have good audio quality.
“Long ago are the days where we can get away with our computer mics. It’s super easy to have decent quality. Even if you’re recording in your closet with a $60 microphone from Amazon, that will still sound amazing.”