A Product Manager’s Journey Into The Dark Statistics of Crime (Part II- The Story with Crime)
Why is crime-based media keeping breaking revenue records, unlike no other in their respective media categories? And how does this relate to product management?
We live in a society that is obsessed with crime.
Game of Thrones has broken so many records while presenting some of the most violent crimes in today’s television, spiced up with fantasy dragons.
If we look at the list of 2019 top10 best-rated TV shows by IMDB (with over 10K ratings), 5 out of 10 either have the official category of “crime” in their genre or portray criminal activity their main description. Those are just the ones where criminal aspects are explicitly described. That 50% easily represents the current interest in crime TV this past year.
Were we always obsessed with crime?
Our obsession with crime is not something new; it is not a millennial trend that other generations couldn’t understand. It has been around for a very long time.
In 1887 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Published his first “Sherlock Holmes” story. His character was a detective consultant with a hyper sense for solving crimes. Those victorian age stories are still being adapted today to movies and TV shows, and of course — he wasn’t the first.
Before Sir Doyle, we had early crime fiction writings as early as the 11th century in the “One Thousand and One Nights” tales.
And don’t get me started with earlier folklore & religious writings that used crime and murder as an educational tool enhanced with the emotional impact of divine punishment that goes all the way back to Cane and Able.
Is crime a cultural obsession?
Back in the day, legal public executions were the climax of the season for many towns, those shows of power, punishment, and death were the norm for many years. Although it makes us cringe in our seats nowadays, thousands of families, including women and children, gather in town squares to witness the end of the line for the most horrendous criminals and community enemies.
This norm wasn’t a far history as you might think. The last public execution in the US happened in 1936, which was the same year Alan Turing invented the Turing machine and only 6 years before the first computer (ENIAC) was constructed.
The consumption of crime culture surely has changed, from seeing a decapitation happening in real life or feeling the wrath of God in bible studies to watching TV drama’s in the comfort of your living room couch or listening to a true-crime podcast on your work commute.
The becoming of true-crime
As early as the 16th century, when the press became cheaper, true-crime stories have started to form, the shape and size of these criminal biography tales shifted and changed. Over the years, the genre has become more and more popular, and books, films, and later podcasts had created a massive market for it.
What’s the deal with true-crime?
So, yes. We consume crime content in a variety of formats, but one thing is still not clear. Why?
On a survey, I conducted on the community members of my true-crime podcast, “Let’s talk murder,” I asked some questions about listeners’ motivation to consume this content.
The survey contained 197 replies, with a range of listeners ages between 15 to 45+. The biggest age group was 20–35 and constituted 55% of the total replies.
When asked about the age where listeners began being interested in true-crime, the range of ages was similar, but with teen and early twenties (15–25) was the age range pointed to by 44% of all responders.
When asked directly on the motivation to consume true-crime: “The criminal’s psychology” had scored the highest rate — with 71% of total responses, placing it as the highest motivator. The second in line was “feeling like a detective, solving a crime,” with 48% of total responses. By the way, the lowest score came to “the thrill” as the lowest motivator asked upon.
Ok. so we’re all obsessed with crime.
It seems crime stories have been a part of our lives since forever, and there’s no doubt that today this field is at a peak, and many different articles from large magazines declare it as “not going anywhere.”
We will continue to find crime fiction on most of our big and small screens, whether in the form of a detective story, forensic science research, a documentary, or another form of a biography story. It seems they are still going to appear on our on-demand streaming services. And we are still going to watch them,
Since we are fascinated with a criminal's psychology, understanding his motivations, and thought process in his decisions to break the law and the deconstruction of law enforcement to catch him.
So how is all this connected to product management again?
As product and UX professionals, our users' motivations are a critical factor in understanding the experiences we want to build and provide value.
Understanding the psychological factors that motivate people to take certain actions is a major factor in our everyday lives. When we try to define problems, see opportunities, or even at the stage of forming solutions , our users' psychological factors always need to be at the forefront of our minds.
It seems that true crime consumers are no different than product professionals in that manner. Trying to understand the thoughts going through a violent mind is not a process of enjoying the thrill, but mainly the need to understand what makes it different.
Being able to feel empathy for serial killers and other predators by understanding the path that led them there, or studying the factors that tipped absolutely normal people to commit a crime with a critical lens while holding no preconceived judgment, is actually a valuable practice of deep empathy. That empathy allows us, as product managers and UX professionals, to connect and relate to any type of user audience.
That means that no user motivation is too crazy; no pain point is unrelatable. If I can understand the motivation of a psychopath, I will definitely be able to feel the pain of the users in my own industry and be able to direct them with suitable solutions to their problems.
This empathy brings with it the advantage of being able to direct them to the best, most ethical, and human paths. But that’s a different story for a different day.