Do women need their own place on the web to follow sports? ESPN is going to find out today as it launches espnW.com, a sports site dedicated to carving out a place for women to read about sports news and stories.
“There isn’t a place devoted to perspective of females,” says Laura Gentile VP of espnW. “In women we talked to, they feel like on other sites you always have to prove you’re a fan if you’re a woman.”
EspnW.com will look like a blog, with a running flow of stories. Coverage will be equitable across men and female sports. There will also be bits about training, and running.
ESPN’s research says women want “Olympics coverage,” says Gentile. “That’s the gold standard for women. You connect on an emotional level learning about people you never had an interest in and someone you do care about.” So, expect more human interest stories than on espn.com.
But, do women really need their own sports site? There is the somewhat predictable backlash, with some women resenting the notion that ESPN might serve up a “a girlier’ version of sportis [sic] programming.”
Others are willing to see what it has to offer. Deadspin contributor Katie Baker told us over email:
“I’m kind of in the ‘I don’t see the harm’ camp. ESPN has so many tentacles that it doesn’t seem like a big deal that they’d have a dedicated women’s site. It’s just a website at this point. And I actually do think that they could leverage social networking in ways that don’t exist on ESPN proper if they thought about it the right way. (If they’re using anything close to the existing comment/social networking infrastructure that’s in place on regular ESPN.com, it’s going to be a huge failure. That place is where enlightened sub-conversation goes to die.)
A lot of the criticism I’ve read uses the term ghetto – sometimes more specifically “pink ghetto” – to describe the site. I think that’s being rash. If anything, it’s more like the balkanization of ESPN that has already been in motion what with all the hyperlocal sites they’ve been launching. No one made a huge deal when they launched ESPN New York or called that a ghetto. The site caters to a niche and is both a complement and supplement to ESPN. I don’t see why a women’s site couldn’t exist in a similar way.”
Gentile says the site will adapt to the readers. This is just the first version, it will change over time, “like any digital product.”
If ESPN can execute on the idea, it can be a new (potentially lucrative) demographic to serve. ESPN’s viewership is 76% male, says USA Today, so there is plenty of room for growth with women.
Nike and Gatorade will be launch partners sponsoring the site which goes live at noon.
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