SXSW Panel Recap: Beyond Podcasting: How Ashley Flowers Redefined True Crime Storytelling

How the Crime Junkie host built a media empire

Crime Junkie host Ashley Flowers at SXSW 2023 (Photo by John Anderson)

Millions of people love true crime, and there are hundreds of podcasts about the subject. Ashley Flowers hosts one of the most popular, Crime Junkie, which she explained to a huge crowd at South by Southwest Sunday was a passion project that she grew into media company Audiochuck, which now produces several top-rated shows.

At a panel moderated by Audiochuck CEO Kevin Mills in discussion with Flowers and Oren Rosenbaum of talent and entertainment company UTA, the group talked about the past, present, and future for Audiochuck and podcasting in general.

Flowers explained that her Crime Junkie co-host Brit Prawat was “a true OG podcast listener” and introduced Flowers to 2015’s Serial, one of the most popular true crime podcasts of all time. Flowers was skeptical about podcasts, but binged the show over a long road trip and fell in love with the medium. But as she was “waiting for someone to make a certain show,” she realized maybe that someone was her, and Crime Junkie was born. Flowers had already been working with CrimeStoppers, and put a desire to give back and her passion for the true crime genre together to build a podcast and a community.

As the podcast grew in popularity, so did the business, and Flowers eventually brought on more support so that she could tell more stories and help more people. She said that in the first year, she was focused on content creation full time, then had to work on the business full time as well, leaving less time for her family. But, she said, “I have felt worn down, but never burnt out, because I love it so much,” and advised, “You can have everything, but you’re going to have to give up pieces of it.”

Rosenbaum spoke about the business side, and about how Flowers has grown and changed the medium. They discussed the introduction of video to a primarily audio-based medium, as well as a recent live show, which Flowers described as a “podcast meets documentary meets investigative war room,” designed to give fans an experience unlike the one they get at home. Rosenbaum advises podcasting hopefuls to find a hole they can fill, rather than try to copy something they love. He explained that podcasts have a “low barrier to entry” as opposed to film or television, but that podcasters shouldn’t approach a new project as simply a launch pad to film or TV. Mills chimed in that “consistency is really important, and quality,” and shared that Flowers’ curiosity is a key to their success, as well as a “very clear vision around what we’re doing and why.”

Flowers said that podcasters need to ask themselves why they’re telling a certain story, and if they have the information to tell it well. Her focus has been on giving people a voice and making positive change for the subjects of her storytelling, but doesn’t just talk about these stories. Her nonprofit Season of Justice has raised funds for grants used in DNA testing for cold cases and has assisted 141 cases so far. She’s also branched out to fiction writing, with a New York Times bestselling crime novel, All Good People Here, under her belt so far. When asked what’s to come, Flowers said the goal is to continue building the business. “The future is big and bright, and it’s happening really freaking fast!”


Beyond Podcasting: How Ashley Flowers Redefined True Crime Storytelling

Media Industry Track

Session available on demand now.


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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW 2023, SXSW Films 2023, Ashley Flowers, True Crime, Podcasting

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