Podcasting started several years ago as an independent activity in which a host or group of hosts sat in front of a microphone and discussed a topic they were passionate about. In time, the industry grew to a point where world-renowned names such as Shaquille O’Neal, Conan O’Brien, and Bruce Springsteen joined previously established podcasts, created their own, or did guest appearances on topics related to their careers. This pushed independent podcasts to the side, making it harder for them to succeed. However, some managed to survive and become popular. Once Upon a Crime celebrates five years as an independent female-hosted podcast.
An independent podcaster
Esther Ludlow, the voice behind the crimes, ventured into podcasting five years ago and took complete control of the production. From researching and writing the script to recording, editing, and advertising. “I started my first podcast,” says Ludlow, “like most people do, with just a laptop and a plug-in USB microphone. Now, a lot of new podcasts have networks and big budgets for production and marketing behind them.” As the podcast grew, with over 200 episodes and 25 million downloads, she continued to handle business independently.
Podcasting as an independent producer meant she had to learn how to become profitable without joining any networks.
Podcasting as an independent producer meant she had to learn how to become profitable without joining any networks. Lucky for her, she found her ground and began making six figures as an independent producer through ad sales. She explains, “90% of the production of every episode is still done by myself. The biggest chunk of time is dedicated to writing each script. Besides the creative side, as an independent podcaster, you also have to do the bookkeeping, marketing, and promotion. I make an income through sponsored advertisements on the show.”
Although she is highly passionate about what she does and would not change this career path for any other, Ludlow knows podcasting independently is time-consuming. “The sheer amount of time it takes to produce each episode often leaves me with very little time for other things,” she shares. “When I realized that I had not seen a new movie in over a year, I realized it was time to hire some help. But I love what I do, and so, sometimes, I lose track of time. Getting enough sleep is also a challenge.”
Finding the balance between work life and personal life is not the only challenge this host faces. Being a female host brings its own obstacles. Ludlow believes, “it comes with its unique challenges. On the one hand, I think women are often great at multitasking, which is a great skill to have when producing an independent podcast. On the other hand, many women have a lot on their plates — jobs, families, relationships. It can be easy to take on too much in trying to keep it all going.”
True crime podcasting
When Esther Ludlow began podcasting, true crime was not as widespread as it is today. As one of the early independent true crime podcasters, she has seen the true crime genre become a hot media commodity. In the beginning, there was no category for true crime on Apple Podcast, but the number of people searching these types of podcasts led to the creation of one. This uproar can be attributed to the podcast Serial, which premiered shortly before Once Upon a Crime.
Once Upon a Crime brings its unique touch to what audiences are used to in the true crime genre. Ludlow shares crimes in story mode, going into details that may have been unknown to listeners. Growing up, she became interested in criminal psychology. Nowadays, she brings this interest and knowledge into every episode, sharing facts about different true crimes. She has done her work in such an admirable manner that her podcast has managed to remain on top of the charts even when competing for audience share with true crime star power like Dateline, Nancy Grace, and the Oxygen Network.
A five-year win
Although the podcasting industry continues to grow, some independent podcasters have managed to stay at the top. With her hard work and dedication, it is no surprise Esther Ludlow is among those successful independent female podcast producers. Her knowledge, research, and talent make her one to listen to, and that is why Once Upon a Crime celebrates five years as an independent female-hosted podcast.