Murder, They Spoke

Who says crime doesn't pay? Not Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, who have turned their darkly funny podcast about killers into a burgeoning media empire

Published: Feb 27, 2020 10:01:52 AM IST
Updated: Feb 27, 2020 10:04:22 AM IST

karen kilgariff and georgia hardstarkKaren Kilgariff (left) and Georgia Hardstark

My Favorite Murder was born, fittingly, at a Halloween party in the Los Feliz neighbourhood of Los Angeles in 2015. The gathering was thrown by a mutual friend of the podcast’s future co-hosts, Karen Kilgariff, a standup comic and comedy writer, and Georgia Hardstark, a host on the Cooking Channel. The women had met before. But “it wasn’t until this party that we realised we were both really into true crime and didn’t have anyone else to talk to about it”, says Hardstark, 39. They stationed themselves in the kitchen, ignoring the other guests and swapping tales of gore. “Which is stuff I like to do at a party.”

“It was a perfect moment,” adds Hardstark. “I met someone who didn’t want me to shut up about murder.” Millions of others, it turns out, didn’t want them to shut up either. Listeners can’t get enough of the pair’s darkly humorous tales about murderers like Scott Scurlock, the Hollywood Bandit, and Robert Hansen, the Butcher Baker of Anchorage, Alaska. Today My Favorite Murder gets 35 million downloads a month, and last year it was the seventh-most popular podcast on Apple Podcasts, ahead of repurposed programming like NPR’s Fresh Air and This American Life.

The duo’s little true-crime empire is growing. In the past year, they’ve performed 40 live shows; published a New York Times bestseller (Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, a nod to their show’s catchphrase); signed a development deal with podcast publisher Stitcher worth at least $10 million; and built a 55,000-person fan club—members pay $40 annually for exclusive episodes and access to pre-sale tickets to live shows.

In other words, the duo is killing it, and their earnings show it. They made an estimated $15 million in 2019, placing them at No 2 on our inaugural ranking of the top-earning podcasters. It’s a boom time: Advertisers likely spent close to $700 million on pods last year, according to estimates by PWC and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a nearly seven-fold increase in four years; Spotify spent $250 million to acquire podcast networks Gimlet and Parcast. Apple, reportedly, is hot on Spotify’s heels with plans for its own network after years of doing nothing. “People are realising that podcasting is special,” says Kilgariff , 49. “I think people are isolated and really lonely.” And in the case of My Favorite Murder, “it’s nice to listen and process terrible [things] together. There’s something really cathartic about that.”

Another recent endeavour for Kilgariff and Hardstark: Their own podcast network, Exactly Right. They’ve greenlit five shows, including This Podcast Will Kill You, a series about infectious diseases hosted by two epidemiologists. “It’s very fun and cool and old-fashioned show business to discover talent,” Kilgariff says. “We’re lucky because ours is popular that we have this fuse, and we can connect this fuse to people who deserve it.”

 

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(This story appears in the 13 March, 2020 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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