What's wrong with the headline of today's blog post?
Sports and rock have long been the domain of men. Especially in radio. So, why are we talking women?
Strike up a conversation with any sports rock radio consultant (like me, for example), and we'll tell you about the laws of format focus; that while you always want as many listeners tuning in to your station as possible, you have to realistically narrow your target to the demographics that are most naturally and logically available to your station brand.
That's why no sports radio station spends much time (or money) interviewing women, much less catering to them. Same with rock stations. (Many Classic Rocker have been wise enough to realize that women are, in fact, part of the demographic “secret sauce” that can make a or break a ratings book.) There's just no money in it. Right?
And so when your research screening is based on your station's cume (and preference), you get what you get. Sports and rock stations have been engineered to lean heavily male, creating a self-fulfilling promise that may not be in-sync with our changing times.
But the reality of today's media world suggests a rethink may be in order – especially with formats that have traditionally had a male skew. The advent and power of social media, in particular, has literally changed the rules of engagement. And by that I mean women dive in, react, emote, and respond differently than men.
This is as true in radio, as it is in life. And it's no mystery that in the past several years – perhaps even amplified by the #metoo movement – women are stepping up and making their presence known, often in places that were once male bastions.
But in Sports and Rock radio?
A recent AdWeek story – “Why Sports Brands Need to Start Paying Attention to Female Fans” – makes a powerful case to rethink the givens. Sammy Nickalls' story provides compelling analytical fodder for sports franchises and related businesses (and that would include radio), suggesting they take another look at the women in their midst.
Bolstered by an eye-opening infographic from Shareablee, Nickalls looks at social media as a game changer, opening the door for women to not just participate in the conversation, but to play a significant role.
It turns out that women comprise about one-third of social media buzz surrounding sports. And when you zero in on an event like the Olympics earlier this year, female “socializing” actually dominated the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Now, skeptics might argue the Olympics Games are anomalies. There are many, many female athletes to follow, and events like ice dancing are the underlying buzz generators for women.
But the Shareablee infographic notes the top two sports for female engagement are baseball and hockey. (Basketball and football rank #4 and #5.)
Now we don't have the social media analytics on rock, but it seems like the very same phenomenon could be happening when it comes to everything from Bruce Springsteen's Broadway tour to Dave Grohl's 25 minute long song to Paul McCartney's “Car Pool Karoke” appearance.
But when you listen to Sports Radio, it's still a rarity to hear female callers on stations long dominated by men jawing to the guys behind the mic.
Listening to some of the top rock radio personality shows, however, often reveals a similar effect sports is now experiencing with women. Many callers on “guy shows” like WRIF's Dave & Chuck the Freak, WMMR's Preston & Steve are, in fact, women. And these hosts will proudly tell you about the volume of female callers they receive every morning.
Whether it's on the phones or in social media, women are changing the game – and not just in baseball and football – but in radio.
At the upper, upper management strata, that was on display this week at Jacobs Media's “Broadcasters Meet Podcasters” event at Podcast Movement in Philly. Yesterday was kicked off by a powerful panel of powerful women in radio – and podcasting. Caroline Beasley, Suzanne Grimes, Ginny Morris, and Julie Talbott were led in a spirited conversation by podcast veteran Elsie Escobar. It demonstrated not only how radio is changing, but also how podcasting is leading the way in female inclusion and participation.
A look at the crowds at Podcast Movement – upwards of a record-breaking 2,200 attendees – revealed women are every bit as involved – if not more so – than men. While cracking the glass wall – whether in the air studio or the executive conference room in radio stations – is still a work in progress for women, the podcasting medium isn't just friendly to women – it's an open source platform. And women are most certainly engaged.
This is healthy. And long overdue.
The results from our research study of air talent – AQ – are now being analyzed. Of the more than 1,100 respondents representing big markets, small towns, morning shows, and overnight DJs, only one-fourth of our respondents are female. That's not a sign of a lack of interest among women DJs, shows, and personalities. It is very much a statement about the composition of radio on-air talent today.
Women want to play the same sports as men – whether it's on the baseball diamond, the air studio, or the corner office.
Sports and rock programmers, consultants, and strategists should take note of the changing winds. Once male-dominated cultural icons are undergoing change, and that signals the potential to expand the tent, grow the audience, and become more powerful social, cultural, and media brands. Surely, we're smart and disciplined enough to research the female audience without losing sight of the core.
These radio formats may always be naturally male-heavy. But the female factor could be the difference-maker in affecting rank, whether it's in Nielsen or Miller Kaplan.
Girls just want to have…
…the same opportunities as the guys have.
That's good for our society and our businesses.
Thanks to everyone who attended our “Broadcasters Meet Podcasters” event this week, especially those of you who participated in panels, sessions, and keynotes. We'll have our wrap-up of the event in Monday's blog post.
And coming up next month at the 30th anniversary of Morning Show Boot Camp in Chicago, we'll present the results of the first-ever research study for air talent, AQ.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.