Sword and Scale, the South Florida-based true-crime podcast known for its gripping storytelling, announced today that it has reached one million downloads. The milestone comes just over a year after its launch on January 1, 2014 despite proclamations of the “death of podcasting” in various media outlets at the time.
The skepticism of late 2013 was a departure from the optimism expressed in the CNET article “Researcher sees huge growth in podcast audience” in July 2005, when programs like Adam Curry’s “Podshow” popularized the medium and inspired Motley Fool to proclaim “The Death of Radio.” It was in this environment that Miramar, Florida resident Mike Boudet set on his lofty ambition to launch a true-crime podcast unlike any that existed before.
“I wanted to create a program that is highly entertaining, story-driven and steers clear of the over-the-top sensationalism and polarization of shows like Nancy Grace,” says Boudet, who singlehandedly writes, produces, edits, mixes and publishes the one-hour, bi-weekly podcast. “There are so many tragic and unbelievable cases happening every day that demonstrate, in remarkable fashion, the underlying evil nature of humanity. Many of these stories never get told. I wanted to tell them and not in the way the local news does, edited down to sterilized 5-minute segments. I wanted to tell these stories in such a way that the listener will have a hard time forgetting them.”
The audio program Boudet created, Sword and Scale, does not hold back on the true horrors of crime. It blends together 911-tapes, police interrogations, witness interviews and trial testimony along with unsettling music and sound effects. All along, Boudet narrates the story, filling in details, but letting the collection of audio tell the sometimes heart-wrenching story from the mouths of those who were most affected by it. Some listeners simply can’t handle the brutal, unsettling and unedited nature of some of the content.
“The medium of radio is so much more powerful than television. You can tell a story in a way that it becomes personal to the audience, because they have to fill in the visuals for themselves and their interpretations are usually much more horrible than any camera could ever capture,” added Boudet.
The show began to its rise to popularity when pop culture entertainment website Chud.com published an article called “Sword & Scale’s 20th Episode Is Too Disturbing for Words” about what fans still view as one of Sword and Scale’s most disturbing shows. For this episode, which revolved around a collection of chat logs by a group of pedophile cannibals, Boudet used computer voices to reenact the conversations. The result was an extraordinarily eerie episode where any humanity and emotion is stripped from the truly horrific dialog. It was unlike anything anyone had heard before.
"With Sword and Scale Mike has created a podcast with such brutal content and extreme subjects that it will make the most hardened listeners want to sleep with the lights on and not talk to strangers," says Jason Kretten co-host of the podcast HorrorHound Radio, an offshoot of the highly popular HorrorHound Weekend Convention. Upon discovering it, Kretten and the rest of the HorrorHound Radio co-hosts loved Sword and Scale so much they interviewed Boudet on their program in July of last year. "It was only natural to have Mike on our podcast to help show horror fans that human nature can be far scarier than the most intense horror film,"
Then in September, the rise in popularity of NPR’s Serial created a massive audience of new true-crime fans that also tuned in to Sword and Scale growing its audience exponentially almost overnight. The end result: More than 1 million downloads in just over a year, and the show continues its meteoric rise in popularity with another 300,000 downloads in the first two months of 2015.
“I suddenly had to worry about my server going down because it couldn’t handle the traffic. I had to lease another dedicated server just to serve the podcasts because there was just too much demand.” As you might have guessed, Boudet also built the website, maintains the servers, and actively promotes his podcast on social media. In addition, he hires a variety of writers to offer additional content on his website, swordandscale.com, with additional true-crime articles which are not the same typical stories you would hear on traditional media such as HLN.
“I envision a future where everything will be à la carte, on-demand. Gone will be the old subscription model of cable TV and satellite radio, and instead you’ll be able to download any individual TV or radio show. That will be the norm. We won’t be paying for 300 channels when there’s really only one program we like.”
Although Boudet’s vision of the future of entertainment seems a distance away, he remains determined to put out the best possible true-crime podcast available today. “I want to keep pushing the envelope, keep doing things that no one’s thought to do before, or were told they couldn’t. What’s the point of doing a podcast if you stick to what’s ‘safe’?”
The latest episode of Sword and Scale, Episode 38, takes on the highly controversial topic of pedophilia with documentary filmmaker Jan Willem Breure, who produced the film Are All Men Pedophiles? Yet again, Boudet breaks the mold and challenges the status quo of what a true-crime entertainment program can be.
About Sword and Scale
Launched in January 2014 and based in South Florida, Sword and Scale (swordandscale.com) is a true-crime podcast known for its gripping storytelling, creative audio effects and engaging interviews. Each biweekly episode regularly reaches 50,000 downloads by fans around the world.