Whether you’re with the times or not, podcasts have taken a spicy direction. Sex, sex, sex - everyone is talking about sex! Whether you’re a sex therapist, or the girl next door, everyone has the same goal: to normalize sexual relationships, promote sexual health, agency, and intimacy.
Sex is selling... I mean, regardless of the fact that it always has been, sex is now selling on podcasts. In the past year alone there has been a significant spike in the conversations amongst podcasters when it comes to sex. Over the past year, there has been a significant increase in the total number of individual podcast channels, as well, devoted to topics around sex, relationships, dating, and sexual health. Does it have something to do with being stuck at home craving sex during a pandemic while were all supposed to be social distancing? Maybe. Is it just part of the female sexual revolution? Absolutely.
This got me wondering about the level of interest within the female podcast audience around these topics. In running a sponsored content search from the past year using keywords (sex) and (women), there’s been consistent content around the topic of sex and intimacy catering to women week over week.
I found that women love discussing their sexual experiences, whether comparing or contrasting their own perspectives and relationships to that of their friends - but it goes beyond that. They’re also engaging in content from “strangers”, i.e. anyone from college girls running podcasts as a side hustle or outlet for girl talk to certified sex therapists and doctors that have studied sexual health for decades. There are so many fabulous sex-positive sexual relationship podcasts with funny, honest, emotional, reliable, eye-opening content out there for anyone to listen to! Hence, the birth of the sexual relationship podcast network! These podcasts have helped many to mold their opinions of what they like or don’t like in the eyes of physical pleasure and emotional relationships.
Why are “girl talk” podcasts so unique? What people naturally assume to be a closed-door, private topic like sex and intimacy is evolving into a public forum, possibly riding off the coattails of movements like the #MeToo and Women’s March in the previous years. Recent developments in Title IX policies on college campuses help women to feel more protected, autonomous over their own bodies, and the discussions surrounding them. Put it this way: politics has ALWAYS been at the forefront of social public conversations. The word “politics” literally derives from the Greek word for “affairs of the cities”, but that’s the beauty of the world of podcasts: every topic can be an “affair of the city” when it comes to what audiences and listeners care most to hear about and learn about, sex and relationships included.
Let’s look at two totally opposite ends of the spectrum and do a deeper dive on some of the most popular sex and relationships podcasts existent today: Sex with Emily and Call Her Daddy.
Sex with Emily, created and hosted by Dr. Emily Morse, is just one example of a sexual relationship podcast. Emily received her doctor of Human Sexuality in San Francisco and received her BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Her podcast focuses on all angles of relationships, from sexual experiences to communication tips, and much more. She shares her expertise on sex, relationships, and anything sex-related geared towards an audience of all women, there is no age limit or restrictions when it comes to sex!
Long before the Pandemic, Emily has been discussing the topics around sex, relationships, intimacy, hookups, and various other parts of relationships on her podcast. These are some of Emily’s most important repeat topics women repeatedly come to her for advice on. In a keyword search to check out the number of times Dr. Emily has used keywords like ‘hookups’ ‘breakups’ ‘intimacy’ ‘sex’ and ‘relationships’.
Regardless of age, women offer extremely diverse needs sexually. Meaning, different ideas, and practices behind dating things work well for some but may not work well for others. Age is extremely irrelevant when it comes to sexual needs. People love the truth and honesty behind Emily’s words. Although I cannot speak for all women and say that every single one of us ‘has an itch that needs to be scratched.’ However, I can say there is a conversation around women’s needs, and most are curious to learn more about it. Emily has worked with numerous brands, sponsoring content that attracts all women. Whether she’s working with product sponsorship like Good Vibrations or Yarlap, Emily’s wisdom and opinion on products like these are trusted and valued. These two types of sponsorships could not be any more different. Sure, they both aim for women and their lower regions but the age demographics being targeted differ immensely. This causes women of all ages to continue to be engaged in the conversation and so eager to learn more for this fabulous sex doctor.
As we take a look at the other side of the spectrum of sexual relationship podcasts now we dive into one of my personal favorites, Call Her Daddy. After much drama with her previous co-host, our ‘Father’ Alex Cooper is back and better than ever. After her podcast recently signed a deal, in June 2020, with Spotify for $60 million everyone’s favorite father is back in the game.
Alex's audiences are more towards the peak of their sexual prowess as college or post-college single women. They may feel like they've had too many experiences that either bring feelings of shame, goes against societal norms, or even isolates themselves from friends who are all in serious/committed relationships. Singledom is hard and Alex is so relatable that it's impossible not to feel more confident after listening to her wild experiences. She covers various topics from being “ghosted” or “dumped”, and how to deal with "fuckboys". When we do a keyword search of these terms we see that in the podcast space these terms have been used a lot in regards to dating and sex podcast conversations. I can’t help but wonder if the spike in these topics, shown below, has to do with Alex Cooper.
Sure, there have been loads of podcasts focusing on relationships, orgasms, how to speak to your partner, and so on. However, we see more and more that sexual relationship podcasts are about so much more than the conversations we’re already having. Alex talking about the perspective of being screwed over, the best way she knows to give a BJ, and tips on sex we all need but are unaware of. Cooper says the things we are all too scared to say, she is beating social norms.
Not all podcast networks have caught onto this trend or they just don’t have the raw talent on their rosters to cater to this uptick in engagement among female podcast listeners. The ThoughtLeaders platform recently released a feature allowing us to analyze entire podcast networks and what they deliver in terms of content niches they specialize in and missing out on a major share in the marketplace.
From a podcast network standpoint, take iHeart media, for example, they currently operate 16% of the total podcasts in this specific space - the next largest network, PodcastOne, ranks in at 7%. What's interesting is the large amount of independently owned and operated podcasts that ThoughtLeaders is tracking that DONT YET HAVE A NETWORK PARTNER. This presents a massive opportunity to podcast networks that either want to attract more female audiences, the brands that want to promote this type of content as part of their marketing strategies, or the existing network monsters in the space that want a complete take-over.
On the other hand, existing podcast networks all have their niche. Take Locked on Podcast Network, for example, they focus on anything and everything related to sports. When you search for the keywords mentioned about you’ll see there is 0 coverage on these topics.
This makes sense, reasonably so, a sports podcast network wouldn’t be covering these topics nearly as much, if at all, the assumption that either women don’t listen to sports podcasts or don’t have an interest in sports topics as places of education and engagement.
This conclusion could be spot on - if we look at top brands sponsoring this network that cater to sports-minded audiences, we find:
These brands cater only to men and offer services that focus on cars, fitness/health, or even delve into the world of investments: sports gambling and investing have numerous similarities, so again, we find alignment between advertisers on these networks and the content that these networks are prioritizing in their monetization strategies.
So we now know what makes the woman's world on podcast tick, and who's missing out. We also know just how valuable the sexual health and relationships podcast industry is, just by looking at both ends of the spectrum of creators catering to this topic and these audiences. What remains to be seen is how this will continue to grow and scale as more and more brands enter podcast advertising spaces and networks continue to vie for more dollars. It may not be the sexiest bedroom talk, but it's certainly spicing it up in the world of marketing!