- NBC News podcast "The Thing About Pam" has been at No. 1 on Apple Podcasts almost consistently since it launched on Sept. 18.
- The podcast explores the crimes of Pamela Hupp as told by "Dateline" correspondent Keith Morrison.
- Morrison's engaging storytelling capitalizes on the medium of audio to bring listeners as close to the story as possible, which is just one reason the podcast has been so successful, according to NBC News senior executive producer David Corvo.
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"Dateline" has been airing on NBC for 28 seasons, but the network found a way to grow the show's audience and popularity by turning one of its most gripping mysteries into a podcast.
"The Thing About Pam," hosted by "Dateline" correspondent Keith Morrison, gives listeners a close look at the murder of Betsy Faria and the mysterious events surrounding her death. The podcast made its debut on Sept. 18 and has rarely left the No. 1 spot on Apple Podcasts since.
David Corvo, the senior executive producer of primetime news for NBC News who oversees "Dateline" production, attributed the podcast's immediate success to the "Dateline" brand, but said a good host with excellent storytelling abilities keeps listeners hooked in the long run.
Morrison's hosting style is intimate, Corvo said. Instead of reporting the facts of the story to the audience after he uncovers them — as a traditional news broadcaster would — Morrison makes his listeners feel as if they're experiencing each turn of events in real time as he is.
"In a podcast, the audience is almost a sidekick, a partner, and they kind of come along for the journey," Corvo said.
Pamela Hupp's 'diabolical' behavior makes for prime audio storytelling
Elizabeth Cole, an executive producer of "Dateline," said Pam Hupp's story alone is enough to ensure any listener stays captivated until it comes to a close.
After Betsy Faria was murdered in 2011, her husband was convicted in 2013. But that conviction was eventually overturned, and Hupp was recently sentenced to life in prison for a murder prosecutors believe could have planned to divert attention from Faria's death, according to NBC News.
Shortly before Faria was stabbed to death, Hupp became the sole beneficiary of her life insurance policy and is also the last known person to have seen Faria alive, NBC News reported.
"Every step of the way, you're learning something more diabolical that she seems to have done," Corvo said.
"Dateline" had covered the twist and turns of the case several times before launching the podcast, but when Hupp started posing as a producer on the show in her attempts to avoid conviction, the actual producers decided it was time to revisit the story in audio.
"It really is one of — if not the most — unusual stories we've done," Cole said.
True crime podcasts are heating up, with 'The Thing About Pam' leading the pack
"Podcasts are enormously hot right now, particularly in the true crime space," Corvo said. "We want to hold our place in that genre."
Five of the top 11 podcasts in the US on Apple Podcasts fall into the true crime category, including "The Thing About Pam" and "Culpable," a true crime podcast that aired its last regular season episode in September but continues to draw listeners as it investigates the death of Christian Andreacchio in Mississippi.
While podcasts allow for the opportunity to include more personal anecdotes and in-depth reflection from reporters — like when Morrison discusses Hupp's attempts to pass herself off as a producer — there are limits to what they can achieve.
Listeners never get to see Hupp in action, for instance, whereas "Dateline" viewers get to see the woman herself in court.
"In a podcast you're asking the audio to paint the pictures that on television, you show," Corvo said.
The trick to creating a good true crime podcast, though, is to free yourself to tell the story in the most conversational way possible, according to Corvo. While "The Thing About Pam" has over 3.6 million downloads, Morrison speaks as if he's telling the story to a close friend over drinks.
"Whether you're doing a podcast or you're doing any other form, you have to think, 'How do I best execute that form?' and not worry about sticking to the rules of the old form you're used to," Corvo said.