Case Study: Wondery “Dirty John”


Founded in 2016 by former Fox International Channels CEO Hernan Lopez, Wondery is an audio-on-demand network comprised of storytellers in entertainment, drama, personal growth, business, and home. Wondery asked RLM PR to raise the profile of the podcast organization to attract content creators, and to publicize individual podcasts with the goal of increasing listeners.


As media introductions to Lopez and the Wondery overarching story were being organized, RLM PR immediately jumped on the company’s newest podcast at the time, “Dirty John” — the tumultuous story of a California couple’s relationship centered on its main character, Debra Newell.

After navigating some media hurdles that came with the fact that “Dirty John” was co-produced by the Los Angeles Times, RLM PR utilized a number of tactics to get the word out. The agency took Newell’s story to women’s outlets, which quickly opened the reach for a podcast story’s typical coverage. Across all conversations with media, RLM PR convinced reporters, producers and editors to listen to the complete series, down to the finale. Once outlets committed to the full “Dirty John” immersion, RLM PR was flooded with requests to speak with not only Newell, but also with Pulitzer-prize winner Christopher Goffard, who originally covered Newell’s story for the LA Times. The campaign evolved into the podcast’s producers being interviewed to learn more about the creation of the story and how “Dirty John” came to be.


RLM PR was successful in securing media right out of the gate, starting with a weekend feature in USA Today — the agency knew that the national newspapers’ demographic would resonate with “Dirty John.” The story helped drive listeners to make the podcast’s debut at Number One and receive one million listens by the end of its first week. Coverage in The New York Times, Dr. Oz, New Yorker, Last Call with Carson Daly, CNN, Entertainment Weekly, and more over the following weeks would help bolster listens to eight million by the end of the third week of release.

While “Dirty John” has been picked up by the Bravo network (and by the Oxygen network for a second show), the success of the podcast for Wondery has enabled the company to be a stakeholder in the flourishing true crime podcast category, where Wondery has since released a multitude of true crime titles. This groundwork allowed RLM PR to continue tapping new opportunities for Wondery, where the agency created whole company stories in marketing, advertising, technology, arts/entertainment and business media, along with a large collection of features that captured Wondery’s personal entrepreneurial journey with Lopez in tow, and the story of the overall Wondery brand.

As of this writing, Cannes has invited Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez to deliver a keynote address at Lion Festival (June 2018) to educate festival attendees on how “Dirty John” perfectly hit the zeitgeist.

Rolling Stone, “‘Dirty John’: Inside Hit ‘L.A. Times’ Podcast”.
New Yorker, “‘Dirty John’: Journalism as Noir Entertainment”.
Dr. Oz, “The Unsuspecting Woman Who Married a Sociopath”.
Dateline, “The Women and Dirty John”.


Entertainment, Journalism


Communication, Internet

Date published

April 1, 2018