Gabby Petito case highlights growing interest in 'true crime' podcasts

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The death of Gabby Petito and disappearance of Brian Laundrie have kept investigators on their toes, and many across America and around the world follow their every move.

One sign of the intense interest in these types of cases is the rise in popularity of "true crime" podcasts, including "Crime Junkie," "My Favorite Murder" and "Serial," which are regularly on the list of most popular U.S. podcasts tracked by Edison Research.

So what is America’s fascination with crime? 

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"Podcasts are just catching up to the tastes of mainstream America," said Edison Research Senior Vice President Tom Webster.

"I think true crime as a genre is as much about the curiosity, passion and engagement of the hosts as it is the underlying crime. The popularity of all three of those shows is at least partially attributable to the skill those hosts have in drawing us deeper into the mystery. That is a real craft. If two podcasters tackle the same source material, the better storyteller will always win."

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Fox News asked if Edison Research tracks the business side of true crime podcasts and how much money episodic series of spoken-word digital audio files bring in. Webster says the company only tracks audience numbers. But he did add that true crime popularity is also seen on TV. 

"Look at the non-sports shows that win in the television ratings each week: ‘The Equalizer’, ‘Law and Order’, ‘9-1-1’, ‘FBI’, ‘NCIS’, etc.," he said.

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Illinois Wesleyan University Assoc. Professor Amanda Vicary is a self-described "true crime addict."

"I never thought that I’d find a way to incorporate my obsession with crime into my professional life," Vicary said in a IWU Magazine article. "Sometimes I’ll be reading through court documents or watching ‘Dateline’ and think, ‘I can’t believe I’m actually working right now!’"

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Vicary has become a highly sought-after expert in the crime community. She even conducted a study exploring whether only women are intrigued by crime. 

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"In reading these stories or listening to these podcasts, you learn how people get murdered, how people get kidnapped. You learn techniques to survive, even if they are as simple as locking your door," Vicary said. "Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m completely paranoid — I have all these little devices around my house, and my husband thinks I’m a total nutcase — but I think learning the survival skills may be why I like crime as well."

Whether it’s podcasts, television shows or books, true crime is captivating America. People follow along with cases like Gabby Petito’s, from the time a disappearance is reported until suspects are charged and convicted. 

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