Feature

espnW: Do women really need their own sports site?

ESPN has launched a website geared toward lady sports fans, but not everyone is sure it's good for women... or the ESPN brand

ESPN's new website, espnW, "a destination for women who are passionate sports fans and athletes," was already controversial well before it launched. Prominent female sports blogger, Julie DiCaro, called the very idea "insulting," observing that "women already have an ESPN. It's called ESPN." Critical pre-launch coverage of the site in The New York Times and USA Today only added fuel to the fire. Now that the site is live, the question certainly isn't going away: Do women really need an ESPN of their own?

Yes, but this one is poorly marketed (so far): "The biggest issue with espnW.com isn't the [site's color scheme], or the format, or the all-female writing staff," says Kristi Dosh in Forbes. "It's the message." It isn't supposed to be about "segregating women," but ESPN hasn't made that clear in promoting the site. Too bad: There is a definite market of "underserved consumers" whose needs aren't being met by ESPN. "espnW: A marketing message gone wrong"

And it's poorly executed: Unlike the clearly organized ESPN website, says Julie DiCaro at Chicago Now, "espnW just seems to be throwing a bunch of blog posts on their homepage to see what sticks." The random assortment of articles range from "Give It Up For Girls Who Train Hard and Are Proud Of It" to an "inexplicable" three-line post called "Some Perspective on What's Sporting." In its current form, "espnW reads more like TMZ.com than anything resembling serious sports journalism."
"Why I'm still not on board with espnW"

But the time is ripe: While the buzz on espnW.com has "not been encouraging" — reportedly, a staff retreat featured a private Jewel concert — "it's not a bad time to be launching a sports website geared to women," says Katie Baker in New York. From Tiger Woods to Ines Sainz to Brett Favre, a number of high-profile scandals have reminded "lady sports lovers... of our fraught relationship with the chauvinistic world we've chosen to immerse ourselves in, and only sharpened our appetite for coverage that could articulate our ambivalence.""Is espnW a pink hat in internet form?"

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