Jane McManus: Leveling The Playing Field

Feb 26, 2019

There was a  minor coup in sports talk radio this week. WFAN’s Mike Francesca was edged by ESPN Radio’s Michael Kay in  New York City’s coveted drive time spot.

Looking a little deeper into the numbers as reported by Neil Best at Newsday, it turns out this feat was accomplished on the strength of the 25-54 year old male demographic.

Actually, that was the only demographic that mattered.

What about men above and below that age? They aren’t counted. And neither are women of any age. Just think about what the cascading effects of that are. But more about that in a moment.

The reason behind that is advertising. When it comes to sports talk radio, advertisers want to reach a concentrated group of men.

Women have a ton of buying power, Bloomberg recently reported women drive 70-80 percent of all consumer purchases, but they can be reached en masse through different programming.

Gender-based advertising has had a tremendous effect on sports radio. Despite the number of women who work as reporters and broadcasters, you don’t hear many on sports talk radio. Doris from Rego Park was a frequent caller to WFAN, but many of the women who are sports fans that I hear from lament that they don’t feel welcome in the space.  Too often you’ll catch a dismissive comment about women’s sports, or a crass comment about cheerleaders and player girlfriends.

Why bother to create sports programming for women when they are invisible? Why cover the Women’s World Cup or the WNBA?

When you ask people who make coverage decisions in sports why certain sports get so much attention, you often hear that it’s because that’s what fans are interested in. But when you literally aren’t counting women and people over 54 years old, you aren’t looking for the complete picture.

You’re just trying to engage people buying razors, testosterone boosters and those tiny blue pills.

I’ve always known sports talk radio wasn’t meant for me, as much as I’ve loved sports and even as a reporter and analyst who has worked in the medium. That hasn’t stopped me from listening however.

And at the very least, women should be counted.

Jane McManus is director of the Center for Sports Communication at Marist College.

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