My Favorite Podcast: Considerations of Celebrity in Podcast Culture

Curator's Note

In 2016, Georgia Harstark and Karen Kilgariff decided to create a weekly true crime podcast. Their podcast, My Favorite Murder, discusses serial killers, historic murder mysteries, survivor stories, and the occasional “hometown” murder story. Over a very short period of time, the podcast gained many fans. Theirs fans even created a cult-like fan group that call themselves “Murderinos.” My Favorite Murder, while covering similar content to many other true crime podcasts, separated itself from the rest through the dialogue between Georgia and Karen. Their wild banter (often the predominant feature of the show) carried their fans through one to two hour-long episodes. Due to their success, Karen and Georgia have taken their podcasting on the road. They tour internationally performing their podcast for a live audience.
My Favorite Murder was created as a space for true-crime junkies. Georgia and Karen (self-proclaimed true-crime enthusiasts) hoped to create a community for like-minded individuals (those interested in the macabre) to join together and enjoy the occasional morbid tale. They created this show as fans of true crime culture. Yet, in their rise to fame, the fans of the show have become increasingly fans of Karen and Georgia. A passion for true-crime brought this community together, yet the energy and exuberance of Georgia and Karen keep it together. The popularity of their live performances (many sold out shows nationally and internationally) speaks to the striking impression they make on their fans. Currently, with so many different media outlets available to so many different types of people, such niche celebrity is widespread and not outlandish. Yet, My Favorite Murder, as a contemporary podcast, exemplifies how community and kinship can produce wildly dedicated fan bases. It leads to many questions regarding podcasts and fan culture. Are fans of My Favorite Murder listening for the true-crime stories or the exuberance of its co-hosts? Even further, are fans so attached to Georgia and Karen, or the sense of community imbued by their podcast? Will podcast hosts rival television stars for stardom soon? Or will podcast stars forever be in a separate, niche sphere of celebrity?


I believe there is a disparate understanding of celebrity or "stardom" arising as media continues to become more divided and specialized. At present, you have Pod Save America podcasters doing a 4 special run on HBO. This presents them to a potentially new audience, but is it necessarily a larger audience or are they truer celebrities now? Are celebrities required to be present on traditional screens to be considered celebrities or are computer screens enough? If you look to more traditional radio DJs like Howard Stern, they were celebrities without being on television or movies. New media personalities regularly carry larger followings and viewers/listeners than television shows or movies. The parasocial relationship between podcasters and their viewers can also be much stronger considering the limited forward-facing barriers between them. I do not know if a podcaster will ever rival a Harrison Ford or Beyoncé without a broader media presence; however, a podcast's power in increasing the popularity of a media figure is an easy explanation for why so many comedians and political talking heads have started podcasting over the past few years.

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