Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Female Audience Editor: Media Trend?

My daily newspaper, like so many others, is making changes that will allow it to continue publishing. One of them is a new job title for a writer for the "Living" or features section. She is now the "female audience editor."

I noticed the new title in last Monday's paper, a day after the newspaper outlined in the op-ed section the many changes it was implementing and why. This change was not mentioned, which isn't surprising.

But as the author of an out-of-print humor book (WHY CAN'T A MAN BE MORE LIKE A WOMAN?) that addresses gender differences and as a student of media trends that I can share here to help you better publicize your cause, product, etc., I was curious about the new title. I sent an e-mail to the section editor asking her:
  • Why the change?
  • Is there a "male audience editor" and if yes, who?
  • Is this part of a trend among daily newspapers now?
I noted that I'd like to share her responses on this blog.

She responded immediately by saying she was not authorized to comment and that she passed my e-mail "up the ladder" for a response. Well, shucks, that's even better. I'll certainly get a bigger picture overview to share here, right?

I haven't heard a thing from those folks on that ladder, so I'll make up stuff that I think they would tell me and I'll be less careful than they would about how I express it.

The change in job title is most likely a continuation of this paper's efforts to become more relevant to specific audiences. It's a Gannett paper and it already publishes several special interest publications. One of them was Her magazine but since I can't find anything about it on the paper's Web site -- just a link to the "Her" online community -- it's a good guess that the print publication folded and the concept is being executed online. (Gosh, if somebody had responded to my original e-mail, I wouldn't be putting questionable information out here, would I?)

I believe the "male audience editor" exists, but with a different job title: sports editor.

Is this a trend? I'm going to guess "not yet." I think that newspapers nationwide are struggling to find what works today. This new title might suggest that this individual is the editor for the "Her" online content on the paper's Web site, too, and that perhaps we'll see less reporting from her in the daily paper. That's unfortunate for me because I like reading her stories. It's also unfortunate because that section of the paper is using more recycled content from its other products, including "Her," and the recycled content isn't nearly as well-written as the content produced by the staffers. There have been several occasions when I've read an article and thought, "Huh? Who wrote this?" and discovered it was a freelancer.

This strategy might save money but could backfire because recycling lesser-quality content into my daily paper isn't going to keep me hooked. And there's nothing unique about me, so if it doesn't work for me, it probably won't work for others, either. It's going to push me away. My newspaper employs excellent feature writers who know how to report. I'd like to read more of what they have to share with me, not less of it. I'm now scanning the bylines and as soon as I see the piece was written by a freelancer, I don't read it, because it just isn't as well-written as what the staffers produce.

I want my daily newspaper to succeed. I want to continue reading it every morning. There's a place for it in my daily routine, but only if it's relevant to me. For me, relevance comes through quality content that has less to do with my gender and more to do with how I use my time both at work and at play.

What changes are you seeing with your daily? And do you like them?


Anonymous said...

I hate stuff like "female audience editor." It only insults people who read that section who happen to be male. I agree that the "male audience editor" is most likely the sports editor, but of course they can't call him that.

As a man who loves painting walls bright, vibrant colors, picking out furniture, and oh heck, even the occasional decoupage project, it's insulting.

The same thing goes for a lot of products and services that people have decided to, for some reason, market only to one sex. Have you seen those energy bars that are "for women"? What do they do, exactly? I'm scared of trying them for the fear that I might start ovulating, or it might cause harm to my testicles in some way.

And women's deodorant. "Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman." Isn't that code for, "we took regular deodorant and repackaged it with pink text and ribbons?" It doesn't even smell particularly feminine, to my nose—at least not more-so than any other deodorant. I've worn it a couple times and asked people if they could tell I was wearing women's deodorant, and they couldn't. However, one time I wore Axe bodyspray and was confused for a Dane Cook fan, so I won't be wearing that again.

P.S. Also, those bandaids with wings.

Sandra Beckwith said...

I agree, Les. It's as if the newspaper is saying, "Men! Run away! Don't read this section! There's nothing in it for you!" Meanwhile, it has information on gardening and food -- topics many men are very interested in.

Go figure.

(Sorry to hear about the Axe incident, but I love Dane Cook!)


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