Philipp Fleiter is one of Germany’s most successful podcasters with his true crime podcast “Criminals from next door”. In an interview, Fleiter tells how it all began and which crime shocked him the most. He also reveals what is important when developing your own podcast and why some podcasts are created in the closet.
You have been moderating your podcast “Crime from next door” since 2019. How would you describe the format to readers who aren’t familiar with it?
Philipp Fleiter: Okay, then let’s start with the definition of “podcast”. I had to explain it to my grandmother back then because she couldn’t imagine what it meant either. I said: It’s like a very long radio show where you only talk about a specific topic. There is no music playing in between. So actually how radio should be: You talk about important topics and you have time for it.
Your important issues are?
Fleiter: In my podcast I talk about real criminal cases and true crimes from German-speaking countries. And try to retell them as well and in as much detail as possible. I talk to experts and various guests about this.
How did you come up with the idea?
Fleiter: It was really a bit like turning my hobby into a job. I am a trained journalist and come from the radio. I worked for radio for a long time and enjoyed it! I was already doing different things back then: moderator, news presenter and also reporter. Even at that time, I was already finding the whole detective story very exciting. If there were any lawsuits in our area, I always tried to get there. I used to love listening to podcasts. That was around 2018, when there were not many podcasts in Germany. At the same time, I was interested in crime, both professionally and personally. And then I thought that there should be podcasts for exactly that.
Did your topic already exist in the podcast scene back then?
Fleiter: When I entered the search term back then, there wasn’t that much about it in German. Above all, these were rather ambitious hobby podcasts, some of which were recorded with very bad Skype microphones. That made me itchy as a radio person! Mainly because I also had the equipment for professional recordings. I started with cases that I had previously covered as a journalist. This resulted in my podcast “crimes from next door”.
Which crime shocked you the most?
Fleiter: Difficult question! It’s not easy to shock me because, as a journalist, I’m used to reporting bad things. Be it wars or crimes. But there are some that are very close to me. For example, there was the case of the Hammer murderer in Hiddenhausen. I was talking to the granddaughter of a woman who was murdered by this same Hammer killer. I was impressed by how positive this young woman was despite this. This is a case that really affected me because of the personal relationship.
If I had to pick out one case that still accompanies and moves me today, it would be the nursing student from Paderborn, who was kidnapped and murdered in 2006. To this day, no one knows who is behind it. This is also very bad for her family. They don’t want to be satisfied with that, and that doesn’t leave me untouched either. That is also the reason why I have now made another update on this case with episode 89.
The subject of crime seems to be appealing to an ever-growing audience. Where does the fascination come from?
Fleiter: This fascination is probably as old as mankind itself. In the Middle Ages, people would trek to marketplaces to watch executions. And a format like Akzent Eichen XY has been around for more than fifty years. So in that sense there has always been interest in true crime. But the narrative forms have changed. With podcasts or streaming documentaries, you have completely different forms of narration and much more time to tell cases. I come from the radio and you have one minute and thirty seconds to talk about a topic. Then music has to come again. With the podcast, I can take as long as I want. This boom is more likely due to the new narrative forms, I suspect.
And what fascinates people about it – I’ve been asking myself that since I’ve been doing this work. I still haven’t found a definitive answer to this. Confronting evil is probably always a confrontation with ourselves. That makes it so fascinating that you wonder whether your own life could have turned out differently if you had made different decisions at one point or another. How would I react in the situation and could I have become a criminal?
What tips do you have for people who want to start their own podcast?
Fleiter: I would say “Go for it!” and just do it! But first think carefully about what you want to do with it and who you want to reach with it. And what should distinguish my podcast from the other existing podcasts?
So when I started, there were maybe three or four German-language true crime podcasts. It’s 400 or 500 now and I don’t know if I could have that success again if I just started again now. I was fortunate back then that I was the first regional true crime podcast. That’s why I think you always have to think about what’s already out there and watch the market closely. Then check out how to find your niche to differentiate yourself from the rest! And the most important thing is that you do it because you feel like it! The audience simply notices whether people are passionate about what they are doing! This is the most important tip! And yes, a good mic doesn’t hurt either.
Is it actually true that some podcasters record their podcasts in their closets at home?
Fleiter: Yes, or in the bedroom under towels, I’ve heard that too. So it’s actually true! This is simply because some rooms are reverberating. This does not result in a good spatial sound and in the closet I have a closed room with a lot of textiles in it! This gives me a better sound atmosphere. But you can also generally record in the bedroom, because there are usually a lot of textiles that absorb echo and reverberation.
What was the best piece of advice you received in your life?
Fleiter: I would say the advice: if a door closes somewhere, then another one opens somewhere. It really is! I firmly believe that there is such a thing as destiny and that things balance out. And that things happen for a reason. So: Trust that new opportunities will arise in life, have a certain basic trust!
There are now various projects in your area: a book based on your podcast was published and became a bestseller. You also got your own show on Sky. What tips would you give our readers on the subject of project management?
Fleiter: I’m probably the worst advisor there because all my friends tell me that I work too much. I would say, especially with new projects, throw your heart and soul into it and do it because you feel like it. None of my projects came about because I had to, but because I wanted to try it. And you can tell.