Of all the countless people who’ve met someone at a party and talked about starting a podcast, few have actually gone on to do it - and fewer still have turned the result into a globally successful phenomenon. For Hannah Maguire and Suruthi Bala, hosts of the true-crime podcast RedHanded, this is exactly what happened however, and the show has gone from strength to strength since its debut in 2017. This year, the pair have also branched out into hosting their first limited-run series, Filthy Ritual, on behalf of Novel and Wondery.
Much of this success is based on the easy chemistry between the two co-hosts, and in this week’s episode, Rhianna Dhillon and Reem Makari talk to Maguire and Bala about how they found their rhythm as partners, their research process, and why they’re the perfect office-mates.
Focus on the content first
“That's another piece of advice I would give anyone who wants to start a podcast: do not, please do not get sidetracked with doing live events, with doing merch, with doing Patreon, with doing all of those things too early,” says Bala.
“If the show's gonna work, there will be a time for you to do all of those things, but if you throw your energy and spread yourself too thin at the start, trying to do all of those things, even if your listeners are asking for it, you are going to break the cardinal rule… content is gonna drop, and then everything else will suffer.”
Don’t forget the independents
“A lot of big media houses are now producing true crime series,” Maguire says, “but when we first started, we couldn't get anyone to sponsor us. Everyone was [staying] away from true crime, cause they thought it was gross. They were too scared to make it.”
“I think a reason a lot of the OG true crime podcasts are homegrown, are people who aren't journalists, aren't the BBC, is because people wanted the content and it didn't exist. And then suddenly it started making money and media houses were like, wait a second, can we have some of that? And that's why you're seeing all of these enormous companies making these true crime series now - and they're not coming under criticism for covering them like we are.”
Be honest about your motives
“Obviously the victims are so, so, so important. We would never dream of doing an episode where we didn't talk about the victims. But to pretend like it's also not a fascination with why the perpetrator committed the crime, and their background, and their reasonings and their motives - as deplorable human beings as they may be - is a fallacy. And we're not gonna pretend that's not something we're interested in. It's very disingenuous.”
“And I actually think listening to engaging in true crime, being active in the true crime space, can only raise people's empathy. Because if you hear about this horrible person that did horrendous things, but then you also hear about their childhood and how horrible it was and how messed up it was… even though it's no excuse, I actually think true crime can give people a lot more empathy in certain ways. So I don't think it's some grubby, horrible thing we need to hide away from.”