Murder, They Spoke


These top-earning podcasters prove that crime really does pay.


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.

My Favorite Murder was born, fittingly, at a Halloween party in the Los Feliz neighborho­od of Los Angeles in

2015. The gathering was thrown by a mutual friend of the podcast’s future cohosts, Karen Kilgariff (page 21, left), 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 realized 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,” Hardstark adds. “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 presale 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 sevenfold 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 realizing 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 endeavor 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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