Some think that we can’t flow (can’t flow)
Stereotypes, they got to go (got to go)
I’m a mess around and flip the scene into reverse
(With what?) With a little touch of “Ladies First”
- Queen Latifah, Ladies First (1989)
Queen Latifah first spit this sentiment on her 1989 single Ladies First. More than two decades later, she maintains her word as her bond and continues to advance the women’s movement and put ladies first.
Her latest project?
A partnership and production deal with AOL. Launching this spring, Queen Latifah and Arianna Huffington are overseeing a web series about entertainment, entrerpreneurism, and most importantly a sports-themed talk show for women. When questioned about her involvement, the mogul likened her role to that of Barbara Walters saying, “I’ll definitely float in and out.”
AOL’s new “for women, by women” venture appears to follow in the footsteps of sports media giant ESPN, who launched espnW, a blog targeting female sports fans and athletes, in fall 2010. According to The New York Times, women account for a quarter of ESPN’s audience, but more specifically, women are 37 percent of NBA fans, 43 percent of NFL fans, 46 percent of MLB fans and 47 percent of MLS fans. With the numbers to support a women-specific sports initiative, such an endeavor appears logical, but begs the question is it necessary.
Almost 10 years have passed since Sports Illustrated and Conde Nast courageously tested these waters with Sports Illustrated for Women (2000-2002) and Conde Nast’s Women’s Sports and Fitness (1997-2000). However, they both folded quickly due to misreading the women’s sports market, massive overhead, and a decline in ad sales.
So, with two failed attempts before them, why should AOL and ESPN feel confident with their decision to revisit this market?
The media landscape has evolved and reshaped consumer behavior and content consumption. Blogs and video content are more palatable, cost effective, and less risky ways to introduce new ideas and distribute content to consumers. Additionally, social media, gossip blogs and reality shows featuring athletes have contributed to the growing popularity and recognition of sports figures; creating a greater demand for sport-centric human interest stories and news in a 24/7 media cycle.
Having said that, the biggest factor in determining the success of these initiatives revolve around the receptiveness and open-mindedness of female sports fans. When espnW was announced, early reactions were all negative everything. Many female fans felt the idea of espnW was condescending, unnecessary, and left them wondering when separate, but equal was reinstated.
Admittedly, I shared this reaction. As a sports fan, I’ve always rejected the watered down, femmed up serving of sports. For me, it’s no different than bedazzled pink and white Yankees caps. Save that for the posers. I don’t need it. I don’t want it. My comprehension of sports terms, plays, zone defenses, contracts, analyses, wins, and losses is just as thorough as the next man. No need to come at me any differently.
My decision to spend time reading an article or watching a video has less to do with whether or not it was created with women in mind, and more about the quality of content. If it’s relevant, interesting, entertaining, informative, controversial, or thought-provoking, you have my attention and I’ll return for more. It’s as simple as that.
Since espnW launched last fall, I’ve visited the site a few times and have warmed up to the idea of the site. It’s no different than ESPN New York, ESPN Chicago, or ESPN Rise. The intent is to supplement what’s available on ESPN.com, not replace it. I can dig it.
I still prefer to get my daily dose of sports from ESPN, Yahoo!, blogs, and local sports sources, but an occasional helping of espnW or whatever Queen Latifah’s new webseries will dish won’t spoil my appetite.
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