Talking TV: How True Crime Podcasts Can Work For Local TV

True crime podcasts tap a deep line into audiences’ psyches and have great potential for local TV news in both audio and video forms, says Scott Weinberger, co-host and creator of the Anatomy of a Murder podcast and executive producer/creator of Discovery ID’s On the Case with Paula Zahn. He talks with TVNewsCheck’s Michael Depp about how to do them right. A full transcript of the conversation is included.

For all those local TV reporters who’ve doggedly pursued making true crime podcasts as a labor of love, Scott Weinberger says keep going.

Weinberger, creator and executive producer of Discovery ID’s On the Case with Paula Zahn as well as creator and co-host of the Anatomy of a Murder podcast, says local TV should be leaning into to true crime podcasts to stay relevant with their audiences. They can work in both audio and video forms, and newsrooms have ready access to the resources they need to pull them off.

In this Talking TV conversation, Weinberger explains that good true crime podcasts need to come from a place of authenticity and respect for the victims of crimes, and that audiences are highly attuned to both. But for TV reporters to pull them off, they also need to break some habits of the medium and adopt a slower build approach to their storytelling.

Episode transcript below, edited for clarity.

Michael Depp: How many true crime podcasts are you listening to right now? Do you have a whole queue of them? Are any video true crime podcasts in your playlist as well? What is it about the genre that so many people find so irresistible?

Scott Weinberger may have some answers for that last question. He’s the creator and executive producer of On the Case with Paula Zahn on Discovery ID, which just passed a milestone of its 350th episode. In 2020, he launched The Anatomy of a Murder podcast with Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi. It debuted at No. 1 worldwide on Apple Podcasts and has passed over 70 million downloads in its first 88 episodes. He is a former investigative reporter with WNBC and WCBS and is the founder and executive producer of Weinberg Media, which, among other things, produces the One Deadly Mistakes series for Oxygen.


I’m Michael Depp, editor of TVNewsCheck, and this is Talking TV. Coming up, a conversation with Scott Weinberger on why we are so addicted to true crime podcasts, what separates the wheat from the chaff in that very crowded genre, and where they might play an even larger role for local TV news.

Welcome, Scott Weinberger, to Talking TV.

Scott Weinberger: Thank you, Michael. What a pleasure to be with you.

Scott, we first had Serial, and now we have a true crime podcast genre that is bursting at the seams with ever proliferating competition. Why are people so hooked on these?

You know, Michael, I think people just really are interested in the process of how crimes are solved. And I think over the years, because of the strength of crime television and, you know, crime novels and true crime novels and fiction about the process, I think people are becoming very educated about how investigators start at a crime scene, homicide scene, in fact.

And they’re able to peel back the onion and determine who may be involved, learn as much as they can about the victim and then taking all those pieces of the puzzle, Michael, if you will, and then coming up with a clear picture of a motive, a means, an opportunity, and eventually hopefully solve that crime. So, you know, the consumer is becoming very, very educated in crime. And as a genre, I think it’s probably one of the top genres across the board, not just in television, but it’s becoming bigger in podcasting.

Is this literally an inexhaustible genre?

Oh, I think there’s a lot of legs left in it. I think there’s a lot of different forms it may take. Podcasting was something that I was really not very familiar with five years ago. I’ve been producing television for almost, you know, 18 or 19 years. But the more and more people get driven into the type of content it is and then, you know, the podcasting, Michael, is more it’s so personal that I find to connect with the listener. I mean, think about what you’re doing when you’re listening to a podcast. You know, some people are jogging, they’re commuting, cleaning their homes. It becomes sort of a personal connection between the podcaster and the listener.

And I think when you have these moments where when you’re listening to a podcast, especially true crime podcasts, you find yourself imagining the scene as opposed to us delivering a visual on television of what that scene may have really been. But as a listener of a podcast, you’re going through the motions, listening to the play by play, if you will, of an actual event. And then you kind of in your mind imagining what you think it would look like. And I think that’s pretty powerful.

Sure. Do you think as long as we have horrific crimes, there’s lurid details, vexing mysteries, there’s always going to be a built-in audience here?

Well, I think since the 24-hour news cycle came about and the insatiable appetite to know what’s going on and where it is and why it’s happening, I think that will continue. So, yeah, I think the fact that we know so much through the news media about specific, I’m talking about real crimes, random actual events that occur, then I think people would want to dig deeper. And digging deeper is what producers want to do to give them, you know, more of the of the behind the scenes look into these criminal events.

I know you’re not a psychologist, you’re a reporter, and that you’ve kind of spoken to how many people sort of know how to do this job, almost, of criminal investigator now the vicariously they’ve experienced it. But I just wonder whether is this tapping something deep in the human psyche that that has such enduring appeal?

Well, I think that’s a very good question. And you’re right. I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist. I do have experience with many years of law enforcement before I got into journalism. So, I’m approaching it from sort of a hopefully an authentic sense of these cases, knowing the behind the scenes of how these, you know, pieces of the puzzle come together and then trying to responsibly report them responsibly, meaning by taking care of how the victims are portrayed.

Being victim-centric, because, you know, as an investigator, you do a victimology as you go through your investigation in a homicide case or any case where a victim is involved and learning more about them is then being able to tell that story and then eventually tell that story. Hopefully, if justice is served to a jury and to bring some justice for a family as a reporter. The storytelling really is based on the facts that you gather and your ability to weave that story in a compelling way, but a factual way.

So, to answer your question really is the people’s fascination with the mindset of the killer. I mean, you hear it, you see these shows, you know, the mind of a killer or what the mindset of a serial killer may be. I think the interesting fact is, what are humans willing to do? What are they capable of? And why do they do the things they do? And I think that will always be an interesting dance between the criminal mind and the actual mind that has to go out there and find out who committed that crime.

So, it’s sort of exploring the edges of our possibility, of moral possibility, perhaps.

One hundred percent, yes.

Scott, you’re 100 episodes deep into Anatomy of a Murder. At the top, I rattled off some very impressive download statistics. What are people telling you about what’s resonating there? What are listeners saying to you about what you’re doing right?

Well, I think there are two important points. First of all, being respectful of the way the victim story is told. We also, you know, Anna-Sigga, my co-host, is a serious former homicide prosecutor here in New York City. She’s got a tremendous amount of experience of not only dealing in homicide cases but dealing with families who have had the unfortunate situation there, had a family member killed in a homicide.

We handle the victims in these cases with great care. We are honored that family members of the victims come on the show and talk to us about their experience. You need to talk to homicide detectives. Prosecutors have worked these cases. So, we sort of weave our own personal experience in the field together with telling what we believe is a compassionate story about victims.

And then, you know, the other portion of it really is authenticity. We’re an unscripted podcast, and we really leave out a lot of the banter about other things that have less to do with the case within itself. But we talk really more about the steps that are taken, the steps that are needed, because we live in a society where they don’t really get enough, that citizens don’t get enough knowledge really about what it takes to actually go from step A to step Z in a homicide case and all the things that are needed to be done and get done to get justice for a family.

Now, Scott, I wanted to have you on this podcast because local TV stations have been making runs at their own true crime podcasts to varying levels of success for many of the reporters there. These podcasts are sort of like a side project. They’re time consuming. They’re a labor of love. Should local TV be investing in true crime podcasts? What’s the incentive for them to be in this game?

I think to be relevant, to be honest with you, to stay relevant, to be in a genre where people are turning to and also in similar situations. Think about the podcast audience these days. I mean, I know producing the Paula Zahn show or shows like that on broadcast networks or cable networks, the audience tends to be an older set of, you know, of the genre, meaning that, you know, on true crime on television, believe it or not, it attracts more women than men. Now, co-viewing is catching up, but more women watch these true crime shows than men do.

In fact, a friend of mine at Dateline once said to me that, you know, it’s not about the murder in our stories, it’s about the marriage, meaning that is the person who’s lying next to me in bed, my husband or my wife, really capable of doing something that I’m watching unfold.

Women are very inquisitive about not only that, but just about the process. So, when we look at the podcast audience, it’s sort of a younger set of listeners. In the podcast world, I think some of our listeners are as young as 20. And you know, you know, the medium is, you know, is your phone and it’s your, you know, obviously no iPods anymore, but there are listening in all these different devices as opposed to just a television set that you would on cable or broadcast.

So, I think the genre is met with a younger audience and audience who have an insatiable appetite for crime but aren’t the typical audience that may sit down and watch a television show.

Given that then and that younger audiences often have younger genre expectations or delivery expectations, if local news does get behind these podcast projects, what are some ground rules that they should keep in mind and some beats that they need to hit for a podcast to really take off?

I think they need to be cognizant of storytelling. You know, when you’re a news reporter — and I was on the news from the outset — we always were taught, you know, that’s video first. Right. So, you put your best piece of video up first, your best soundbite, and you want the audience to be drawn into your performance or your story itself. I think in podcasting it’s more about building up the expectations. It is dropping the breadcrumbs along the way. Those twists and turns become interesting enough that the person has to put more. They’ve driving to work, they get to their location, but they sit in the parking lot for an extra nine minutes because they have to finish that.

NPR calls it the driveway moment.

Yeah, and I agree with that. So, I think that the news to me is that, you know, reporters and journalists who work in local markets aren’t used to that type of formatting. So, I think remaining true to journalistic ethics, it’s possible, but also doing what they can to be good storytellers in that genre.

So, here’s the thing: It may be the case that in the not-too-distant future, the 10 p.m. primetime hour may be handed back to local broadcasters to fill with their own content. Now a lot of them instinctively turn toward producing another hour of news, a typical newscast. But I wonder, might a true crime video podcast be something that could catch on in that primetime slot?

Two things I want to say about that. I’m very aware of that. A couple of the broadcast networks are looking to switch from the 11 o’clock hour to 10 o’clock hour. It’s been something that’s been written about lately. I don’t know whether that has to do with the 11:00 or 11:30 shows moving up to the 11 o’clock hour or maybe giving those later shows an opportunity to come earlier.

But I do think it’s an interesting way to bring true crime in as a lead-in to some of these other 10 o’clock shows. I’m thinking about how crowded of a space between all the existing 10 o’clock shows are on the markets with the two other networks that normally do you know, the CW, Fox is in various different markets now. You’ll have everybody doing news at a specific time.

I think there’s opportunities for the 10 o’clock shows to be adding a 9 o’clock lead in because the crowd, the area is so crowded now at 10, if they all go to that same thing, they’re going to want to draw in more women to their 10 o’clock news broadcast than they normally [do]. So, I think that is an opportunity.

And yes, broadcasting is picking up. I am actually looking at that on different levels. And I do think that is sort of the next step for certain podcasts. You know, there are the interview podcasts, which are natural for podcasts, the Joe Rogans of the world who do a great job in bringing his audience into the set. But there are other ways to implement the broadcasting world in the crime world by using authentic materials, and I’m definitely looking at that.

Let’s dive into that a little bit further because I know yours is an audio podcast, but you’re also, as we talked about, a veteran investigative TV reporter and executive producer on shows like On the Case with Paula Zahn, as I mentioned earlier. How could a smaller news organization present a sufficiently visually compelling video version of a true crime podcast on a relatively modest budget? I mean, do you have thoughts about how they might successfully translate that to something they can do at 10?

Well, think about what they do, their newsgathering, their video gathering, their archive or their materials or actual materials, materials that are handed out by local law enforcement or materials that are handed out by family members of a crime that, you know, are trying to get a message out about a lost one, somebody who’s missing. So, utilizing assets that are already in house seems like an easy thing for me.

I mean, would it be people in a studio, the host, maybe in a studio? And then a VO over a lot of B-roll of these crime scene kind of artifacts or, you know, interviews with affected people?

I think when people are talking about compelling material, it’s compelling material from the field. And so, my thought would be the only way to make it feel not important, but timely. And the information is now because, you know, the news always does better when it’s now. That’s why they invented the breaking news banner.

I think people need to feel compelled to watch because something is going on right now in my community. Because when you think about local news, it is your community, you know, is the way that was invented hundreds or thousands of years ago where someone was standing on top of a stump, you know, wanting to give the town what’s going on. The more you make it feel like it’s important and it’s you know, it’s here and it’s now, I think that’s probably a much better way to go.

Where is this whole phenomenon heading, Scott? What’s going to change in true crime podcasts that we listen to and watch as far as you can see now from your vantage point?

I think the ability for these stories, these cases, whether they’re adjudicated cases or they’re cold cases, you know, unsolved. I’m very passionate about moving unsolved cases to the next level. If you’re doing, you know, millions of downloads a month worldwide, somebody knows something.

It’s a far-reaching medium. So, to have the ability to go to a local law enforcement agency who have a case that may be 12, 15 years old and they’re just stuck, not for the lack of work, but the lack of leads, the lack of movement,to be able to take a photograph, to take a piece of evidence which may not have been released for probably good reasons 15 years ago, take a new look at that. And how can we help?

And, you know, people want to be engaged. I mean, the audience wants to be engaged and wants to be involved. So why not take a medium like podcasting in the reach of a worldwide audience and see if, you know, somebody who was related to somebody 15 years ago had a relationship. They got divorced. They’re married three times over. And perhaps the person they were had allegiance to 15 years ago, they no longer have that allegiance. Maybe they’d be willing to pick up the phone and make a call, and that could bring a family some justice.

So, that is an opportunity for this industry to grow in true crime. That is an opportunity for this industry to grow, to help out, find missing people, to do the things that make the medium, not just entertainment, but also a responsible media.

Fascinating. Well, you have given us a lot to think about, Scott. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Thank you for inviting me. I appreciate your time.

And thanks to all of you for watching and listening. You can watch past episodes of Talking TV, at, and on our YouTube page. Join us next week when we look at an unsolved murder that shocked and horrified a small community. Just kidding. We’re not going to talk about that next week, but we will be back next Friday with more Talking TV. And we’ll see you then.

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