Mainstream media outlets are increasingly dividing themselves into content for ‘men’ and content for ‘women’. Far from patronising and alienating the audience, this strategy seems to be paying dividends and is creating new opportunities for aviation and travel brands to connect with customers editorially.
This Saturday (March 8) is International Women’s Day, an event increasingly marked and celebrated by the media, and women’s media in particular.
This is, therefore, an ideal time to ponder the implications of gender-based media, once considered old-fashioned and outdated but now enjoying something of a resurgence.
It was once the case that the existence of the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman’s Hour was seen as a negative thing. Opponents argued that designating the hour between 10am and 11am as for women implied that the rest of Radio 4’s content was for men. The broadcaster then introduced Men’s Hour in 2010 on Radio 5 Live, although it is unlikely anybody could argue the BBC thereby pigeonholed the rest of the station’s content as being ‘for women’.
Whatever the philosophy behind gender-specific content, the approach is proving a real winner for many media outlets. The classic example is Femail, the Daily Mail’s women’s section, which online takes the form of the notorious ‘Sidebar of Shame’. The ‘guilty secret’ nature of this content, which is devoted to pointing out the flaws in female celebrity’s body shapes and running provocative confessional stories, is widely accepted to have helped propel MailOnline to the lofty status of the world’s most popular online news site, with nearly 190m unique users per month.
Perhaps influenced by MailOnline’s inexorable rise, the Telegraph introduced its Wonder Women section in 2012, hoping to appeal to women seeking a slightly more highbrow destination than Femail. A year on, Wonder Women (the Telegraph’s first online-only section) boasted more than 700,000 uniques a month. Spurred on by this success, Telegraph.co.uk then launched a Men section in late 2013. The strategy seems to be paying off, because the latest round of ABC readership data shows a 14% rise in the Telegraph’s online daily traffic.
Online news source The Huffington Post has also picked up on the gender-based trend, with a new women’s page for the US edition launched in 2012, and HuffPo’s UK version following suit.
On a purely practical level, segregating content in this way helps users navigate the sheer quantity of information in a publication – for example, you will inevitably find a great deal more parenting, fashion and beauty content in women’s sections than in sections for men. In our asset-rich, time-poor era, the attractions are obvious.
There is, of course, a wider argument to be had over whether this editorial approach reinforces gender stereotypes and patronises readers. However, what is clear is that the trend is popular with readers and has opened up new opportunities for brands looking to connect with them.
Story pitches – whether for airlines, destinations or tour operators – can find an entirely new point of purchase with journalists by intelligently taking account of the gender-based priorities of certain sections. Furthermore, some of the hard work of message targeting has been eliminated, as the readership of such sections is self-selecting.
The gender-based trend shows no sign of waning, so this is a good time to take stock of the opportunities it affords.