Perfectly precise winged eyeliner and true crime — hitting the sweet spot of the YouTube algorithm.
For five years, Bailey Sarian’s YouTube channel catered to a small, but consistent audience within the platform’s flourishing beauty community. But in 2019, Sarian’s genuine interest in the infamous Chris Watts family murders encouraged her to test out her now popular MurderMystery&Makeup series which resulted in an astonishing increase in views.
“It turned into something I never thought it would turn into,” Sarian said. “So I carried on the series talking about true crime and doing my makeup. It just brought in so many new subscribers and my channel just blew up.”
Sarian is now one of the most popular true crime YouTubers with over 1 million subscribers. Her video discussing the Chris Watts case earned her over 11,000 views within the first 24 hours of posting, whereas the preceding video about her favorite makeup product of 2018 received 9,300 views within that same time frame. A year and a half after posting both videos, the Chris Watts video has garnered over 1 million views as opposed to the 42,000 views on her favorite products video. The success of Sarian’s gamble paid off and goes to show that true crime sells, even when it’s paired with wildly unrelated topics like makeup, food, and ASMR.
True crime has been an increasingly popular genre in books and TV for a while, but is now finding more success on other platforms like YouTube. Creators that used to reside solely in the beauty and lifestyle community are making the switch and expanding their audience by either dipping their toes into true crime or fully dedicating their content to it. Because of this, these YouTubers are experiencing a sizable spike in views, subscribers, and engagement.
Recently, the genre has seen more niche and unusual takes on it. A quick scroll through YouTube will lead one to find true crime cases retold in calming whisper tones, also known as ASMR, mukbang true crime where the creator indulges in large quantities of food while telling a story, and even . There’s now even TikTok videos where creators discuss cases in 60 seconds or less. These unconventional pairings have allowed for popular cases to stay relevant with a new generation of minds.
Hailee Jade, known as The , started her channel back in 2018. Her content initially focused on the trend of relaxing ASMR videos, but after hearing the famed My Favorite Murder podcast host Georgia Hardstark talk about how she enjoyed listening to true crime before bed, she got an idea. “I really enjoy ASMR before I go to bed. I like the whispering and the gentleness of it,” Jade says. “But what if I could bring both, like, something I’m really interested in in a more relaxing way.”
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
At first Jade didn’t think her first video mixing the true crime content with ASMR performed well. However, after a month she realized that it actually performed 10 times better than her previous videos and amassed over 11,000 views. Data obtained by Mashable from YouTube’s internal analytics team showed that by combining true crime and ASMR, Empress ASMR’s channel has added over 10,000 subscribers in one year. Her oldest available upload is from mid-April 2019.
YouTube analytics also told us that in 2019, true crime videos were viewed over 2 billion times on YouTube. These views also increased by 30 percent in April 2020 compared to April 2019. So, why are people suddenly flocking to YouTube for true crime consumption? According to Julia Sirmons, a PhD candidate at Columbia University, true crime has always been a multimedia genre because “we want to hear the story retold in a way that speaks to our own experience as a true crime fan.” While books have long dominated the true crime world, Amanda Vicary, an associate professor at Illinois Wesleyan University and social psychologist notes that “not everyone is a reader.” According to Vicary, “all of these new outlets are just exposing people who would’ve always been interested in true crime into crime in the first place.”
And these creators have picked up that they can branch out to other mediums to find their audience. After six months of advice, storytimes, and makeup tutorials, YouTuber published her first true crime video. Similar to other YouTubers within this community, her first true crime video titled ‘WHERE IS HALEIGH CUMMINGS?’ beat nearly all her previous videos by hundreds of thousands of views. After noticing the higher view counts on her true crime content, Brymer started her podcast, Killer Instinct, where she covers the same cases she shares on her YouTube channel. Brymer told us that she knows true crime fans flock to different platforms for the same kind of content. “People who enjoy YouTube really like to kind of sit down and be able to hone in and really focus and see who I’m talking about and what really is going on,” Brymer said. “In the podcast, you have the leisure to do your own thing while you’re doing it.”
“I think it’s really hit on something that a lot of people enjoy and find useful even if they don’t realize it.”
YouTube is known for being a platform that allows ordinary people to become creators, often finding massive success and sometimes fame. So, it’s no surprise that these “amateur” YouTubers are finding success in true crime. Sarian, Brymer, and Jade research, film, and edit their content all on their own. And, based on statistics obtained from YouTube, Sarian is currently one of the top true crime YouTube channels sitting at over 1 million subscribers.
But with its increase in demand and influx in creators, will we ever see the genre plateau and run out of new ideas? “I don’t know when it’s going to stop,” Vicary said. “I think it’s really hit on something that a lot of people enjoy and find useful even if they don’t realize it.”
For these YouTubers and their peers, mastering one genre wasn’t enough to get noticed. Their path towards internet notoriety has been full of twists and turns that has led them to dip into discussing grisly details of murder cases. These creators had to stand out in the space by finding a way to mesh one niche community in with true crime. And, since making that switch, their videos have reached significantly bigger audiences and carved a path for them to become some of the leading names in the genre on YouTube.
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe