Dating is complicated at any age, but it can be particularly tricky for those of an older generation. When writer and relationship counsellor Lucy Cavendish reentered the dating market in her mid-fifties, she was prompted to re-examine its peculiarities, and the various ways dating ties into our identity.
The result was Later Dater, produced by Aurra Studios, and over the course of its first season, the podcast spoke to a range of guests about a plethora of romantic subjects, including polyamory, chastity, kink and more. Fresh from winning Best Sex and Relationships podcast at this year's British Podcast Awards, PodPod spoke to Cavendish to find out what she's learned from becoming the Later Dater.
How would you describe your podcast?
Later Dater is a podcast that really looks at the world of relationships and dating, moving beyond the format of particularly ‘boy meets girl’. What I wanted to do was have a really intelligent, sympathetic, empathetic look at how different people live their lives and do relationships, and not just to give people a voice that I was genuinely interested in, but also so that the listener really gets something out of it.
The people on the podcast who came on were so generous with their time and their information, and they were all so incredibly open. I learned a lot more than I thought I was going to learn; as a journalist and as a counsellor - and I see a lot of couples - I've really used a lot of those ideas and strategies in my writing and also to my clients, particularly things like polyamory. I've actually found a lot of the information that people gave me and the stories that they told me were really inspiring, and made me feel incredibly thoughtful about relationships and sex and how we all lead our lives.
Why did you start your podcast?
The very beginning of the podcast was that I became single - I know, don't all rush at once - and I started thinking, well, I'm going to have to go back out dating, and I'm 56. And it made me start thinking about how we date, who we date, why we date. I started having conversations with friends around the dating world and how that might have changed.
And it really made me think about how unhappy people are in their love lives. It was sort of highlighting what was missing, what wasn't really working. I see that in singles and I also see that in couples. I mean, I'm a love coach, so I take a lot of people through the process of finding somebody, and it began to make me really think about what we all really want and what makes us happy and how we find that.
What advice do you wish you'd been when you first started?
I don't think I was aware of how much work would go into a finished episode. I thought we would just go out and find guests on the streets or whatever, we'd just put it out on social media and people would appear. To actually find the right balance of guests and to really find people who wanted to do it and were able to talk and felt confident about it, there was a lot of work behind the scenes around reassuring people. And then there's all the practical stuff of the audio quality, the editing, the team behind it, the graphics, all the people at Aurra Studios that supported it and made it happen, really.
Also, when I was talking to the guests on the podcast, I was never really sure which way it was going to go, because obviously it's not scripted. So it was also trying to balance listening but also thinking about where did I want it to go to get the best amount of information, so the listener really got something from it. It's not a chat, there's a purpose to it - and again I think the editing really does that - but you've got to juggle lots of things while you're doing it. I wasn't really aware of that at the beginning.
How many people does it take to create an episode of your show?
There’s a core team of three, and then back at Aurra, there’s four or five people. I thought I’d just sort of be sitting in a room with a pair of headphones just talking to people; because it's the first time I've done a podcast, I hadn't really realised the amount of people it takes - and also how much hand holding. So the guests would suddenly say "I can't do Tuesday," and there was lots of jiggling and juggling around.
And quite a lot of work behind the scenes to reassure people, because obviously this is a brand new podcast. They didn't know what was going to happen, they didn't know if they'd have a good experience or a bad experience, they didn't know how it would be edited, they didn't know how it would be sold, as it were, so it took a lot of trust.
Do you monetise your podcast?
The first series was about building the audience, but it is and will be enabled for advertising and sponsorship. I would love to do live events. I'm not sure exactly how it would work yet, but that's something we’re thinking about; how it would work. I think it would be great. I think having a live experience where you're all together in a room is a completely different experience.
How do you promote your podcast?
Fortunately, with my other hat on, I'm still a journalist and an author; I do radio and sometimes I do some TV, and so I did a lot of talking about it. I did Trisha and Talk TV and it was picked up by some newspapers - and obviously winning the British Podcast Award is brilliant. I'm now doing a lot of work with Americans and so obviously I told them all about it and they're all listening to it. And now I'm getting some interest from the US, so hopefully it'll start rippling out.
And I do believe that happens. I don't think things necessarily happen instantaneously, but I think it starts, it ripples out, and then more people get interested, and more people want to tell you their stories. I've got four children and they love it; all their friends are listening to it. I'm really excited that a younger audience connects with it, because a lot of the guests on the programme were quite young; the polyamorous lady, I think, is in her 20s. I think that's really refreshing, for people to listen to younger voices, who were speaking with such intelligence. I think it's so refreshing to give that a platform and for people of all ages to respond to it, actually.
Who listens to your podcast?
The majority of listeners are UK and Ireland. We get quite a bunch in the US as well - I think that is only increasing now, and it's actually quite a broad range of age groups and genders. Obviously, one only gets anecdotal evidence and what you could get off your CMS back-end, but I'm seeing a relatively broad gender split and age split.
And I think anecdotally, you tend to hear a lot of people in those different age brackets who I wasn't expecting. I don't think it's what they expect from a dating podcast. I think that's what's unique about it and so I think it's a broad church of listeners.
What have you learned about yourself since starting your podcast?
I actually went and had a tantra session with Kerry who was one of my guests, because I found the whole thing fascinating and she's brilliant - so like that I felt was possible for me. I think if I was going to be any of them, I would be getting people dressed in gimp suits and cleaning my house. I was really quite taken with that idea, actually! I am over a certain age, I'm a little bit on the dull side in that sense, and I realised, actually, polyamory and swinging parties probably weren't for me, but I totally got why they were for other people.
And since then, interestingly enough, I've had quite a few couples in my practice who are either polyamorous or who are thinking about polyamory, and I feel a lot more informed than I was before I did the podcast. So it's been incredibly helpful and it's also really broadened my mind - and I also found out I love doing podcasts.
What was the last podcast you listened to?
I'm constantly training, because I'm one of those lifelong learners, so I like to listen to podcasts that are psychotherapeutically based. I love Mel Robbins, who's American, who I think is just really fantastic, actually - he’s very motivational. I do lots of motivational podcasts, so a bit of Joe Dispenza, who's a little out there, but I like the sense of ‘future forwards’. And I listen to Diary of A CEO, because he gets really great guests, and they're very open; I find it really compelling.