Posted by: Ethan | December 12, 2010

espnW: Soft Launch

While I was offline working through a viral chest infection (it’s almost gone now), espnW launched, quietly.

Thinking back to my comments and concerns voiced this past October about this new initiative, how did the real thing meet or defy those expectations?

Taken in order, I said, quote,

First and foremost, I’m not understanding how a blog is going to “serve, inform, and inspire the female athlete and fan” vastly beyond the morass of online-only content that currently serves that market.

Looking at the blog in its present state, I still don’t know what espnW is supposed to be bringing to the table other than packaging up sports news – not women’s sports news per se – and hanging a “W” at the end of the ESPN logo.

Additionally, I am troubled by Nicole M LaVoi’s comment that she would like “most of the information and content on the site to be developed, written and delivered by females.

Again, looking at the blog in its present state, it appears that Nicole M LaVoi has been catered to, as all of the (signed) content is authored by women.

Frank Zappa complained that the music industry was (and probably is) “run by the same old Milli Vanillis.”

(Read the original article for the full explanation of what that means.)

espnW does seem to have a fair amount of diversity in their talent pool, however perhaps as this is a soft launch there does seem to be a bit of “home cooking” as ESPN-pedigreed authors litter the site.

What really bothers me about this initiative is that it seems to be trying to create a need rather than close a gap.

Nailed it.

What bothers me about espnW, knowing full well that any criticism that I might offer may be meet dismissively with assurances that the blog is still in development, is that it’s not shining a light on women’s sports. It’s not shining a light on women in sports. It’s a repackaging of ESPN.com written solely by women.

Which again leads me to ask why espnW needs to be a stand-alone site and why ESPNs existing family of networks and web sites can’t be bolstered to provide more parity and insight to women’s athletics, women in athletics, and female sports fans in general.

I saw a “tweet” go by recently where someone said – paraphrased – that the failure of espnW to provide a strong web presence means that they’re no threat (or competition) to existing sites that cover, promote, or support women’s sports. Perhaps so, and as a silly exercise I checked the archives for this site to determine how many articles, if any, concerned topics outside of the realm of women’s sports. At best, maybe two: A site update announcement and a note concerning my move from Texas to Illinois earlier this year.

Contrast this with the espnW home page as of this writing:

  • My excellent adventure with Bill Simmons
  • No patsies for Patriots as Week 14 heats up
  • Games We’re Watching: Dunks, kills, awards thrills (makes reference to NCAA D-I Women’s Volleyball tournament)
  • Has Favre turned into your old, depressing grandpa?
  • College athletic career over? Head to Europe, of course (about women’s ice hockey)
  • 2010 MLB winter meetings: A rookie’s observations
  • Nebraska attracts die-hard women’s volleyball following
  • Who stores irreplaceable trophies in a storage facility?
  • About Last Night: Colts win, Newton takes home awards
  • What we’re talking about on Twitter (with no items concerning women’s sports)

Ten posts, three items with ties to women’s athletics.

But hey, at least women wrote all of them, so that’s progress, right?

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Responses

  1. I’ve gone back and forth on your last point – their coverage of non-women’s sports – and have mostly decided that it’s better that it’s more ‘diverse’ than something called espnW would lead one to expect. Sports is sports, regardless of who’s playing or who’s covering it.

    It *is* explicitly ‘for women’, though. In other words, not excluding any sport or any reporter, but implicitly excluding some viewers. So it goes.

    In the end, espnW has a way to go, but I haven’t given up on it quite yet. I think my main concern is not so much what it does, but rather what the espn mothership does now that it’s out there.

  2. I think my main concern is not so much what it does, but rather what the espn mothership does now that it’s out there.

    As of this writing, espn.com has buried a link to the espnW site at the bottom right-hand corner of the site, or one may click on “more sports” on the top navigation bar where espnW is a “trending topic” – meaning the link could vanish at any time, assuming it hasn’t already.


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