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Vox Media Acquires Criminal Productions, Leading Narrative Podcast Studio

Criminal Productions will launch new shows and projects, enabling Vox Media to expand in narrative audio and true crime.

Vox Media, the leading independent modern media company, today announced the acquisition of Criminal Productions, one of the top narrative audio storytelling studios, founded by former public radio journalists Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer. The critically acclaimed Criminal Productions was founded in 2013 and Judge and Spohrer have kept it independently owned and based in North Carolina. It has launched three successful podcast franchises that garner millions of downloads a month, highlighted by its breakout narrative series Criminal, one of the first and biggest true crime podcasts, and followed by the hopeful series This Is Love and the daily program Phoebe Reads a Mystery.

As part of the Vox Media Podcast Network (VMPN), recently named “Hottest in Podcasts” by Adweek, Criminal Productions will more than double its staff, expand Criminal into a weekly show, and launch new serialized shows. VMPN will explore opportunities to expand the franchises beyond podcasting, potentially including subscription products, further investment in live events, and intellectual property development. VMPN will also manage podcast advertising sales starting in January, transitioning from PRX’s Radiotopia podcast network, a key partner in Criminal Productions’ growth since 2015.

“After making these shows independently for the past seven years, we are delighted to join the talented journalists and podcast team at Vox Media. This new chapter gives us a perfect home to grow Criminal, launch new shows, and bring even more stories to our listeners,” said Phoebe Judge.

Criminal explores the unexpected side of true crime, telling thoughtful, complex stories that are deeply reported with compassion. It is one of the most popular podcasts in the world, and has been featured on “Best of” lists in Time, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and Wired.

Criminal broke new artistic ground when it launched, and Phoebe and Lauren have built it into an impressive business. As a longtime admirer of their work, I’m thrilled to see how we can take it to the next level as part of VMPN, while broadening the network’s scope into new genres,” says Marty Moe, president of Vox Media Studios.

The addition of Criminal Productions caps off a year of robust growth at Vox Media. Recent acquisitions include the drinks publication Punch and Hot Pod, the preeminent publication covering the podcasting industry. Vox Media Podcast Network acquired Preet Bharara’s Cafe Studios, and formed sales and distribution partnerships with popular podcasts including The Prof G Pod with Scott Galloway, Longform, Gastropod, and Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast. VMPN also launched nearly a dozen new original shows over the past year. The company’s entertainment division, Vox Media Studios, continues to grow and has recently partnered with Netflix on Treasure Hunters, a documentary feature about the search for a $2 million treasure, and wrapped production on 892, a scripted feature based on a true story starring John Boyega as a war veteran who struggles adapting to civilian life.

AGM Securities, an affiliate of United Talent Agency, advised Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer/Criminal Productions, while Sklar Kirsh served as legal counsel to Criminal Productions. Arent Fox served as outside legal counsel for Vox Media.

Phoebe Judge:

Phoebe Judge is an Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press award-winning journalist, host of Criminal, This is Love, and Phoebe Reads a Mystery, and co-creator of Criminal Productions. Previously, Phoebe was a host at WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, a producer for American Public Media’s The Story with Dick Gordon, and a reporter based in the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio.

Lauren Spohrer:

Lauren Spohrer is the co-creator of Criminal Productions. Before starting Criminal, Lauren was a producer at National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday, The Bryant Park Project, and American Public Media’s The Story with Dick Gordon. She’s taught writing at Columbia and Duke universities, and is the founder of the online literary magazine Two Serious Ladies.

About Vox Media Podcast Network:

Named by Adweek as 2021’s “Hottest in Podcasts,” Vox Media Podcast Network has over 150 active shows featuring industry-leading editorial voices and storytellers from Vox Media’s networks and beyond. From daily news and tech to culture and sports, and talk and interview shows to news and rich narrative storytelling, the Vox Media Podcast Network is one of the largest, fastest-growing, and most topically diverse collections of premium podcasts. Learn more about the Vox Media Podcast Network here.