Will women ever embrace talk radio? The sports programs and polarizing political debates that appeal to males are driving women listeners away from the dial. "Women are more and more turned off by the hostility and argumentative nature of am talk radio," says Gloria Steinem. The amount of time women ages 25 to 54 have spent listening to the radio fell more than 10% since 1999, according to Arbitron. I certainly fall into that category. When I'm in the car with the kids, there's not much that compells me to turn on the radio.
Steinem and Jane Fonda hope to change that. On Sept. 12, they're launching a new female-oriented talk radio network, GreenStone Media (The name comes from a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker "Finding the Green Stone"). Greenstone’s programming includes the Radio Ritas, three stand-up comics who will approach current issues and life advice with humor, bestselling author Lisa Birnbach and award winning actress Mo Gaffney who hosted her own network TV talk show. As Gloria told me, “Our programming will have as much edge as you can have with children in the car.” Investors include Friends producer Marta Kauffman and talk show veteran Rosie O'Donnell.
The two feminist icons are not the only ones trying to take the testosterone out of talk radio. Sirius Satellite Radio offers two full-time 24/7 women's channels, Martha Stewart Living Radio, introduced last November and Cosmo, launched in this past March. Martha features round-the-clock shows covering cooking, gardening, pet care, collecting, crafts and a call-in opportunity. Cosmo advises on relationships, beauty, fitness and fashion. Take Five, a channel launched last October, offers audio from t.v. talk shows like Ellen DeGeneres and Tyra Banks as well as original programming. The Oprah & Friends channel, which features original content from Oprah and the experts who appear on her show, will be launched on Sept. 25.
Talk radio is a particularly attractive format for advertisers because the audience tends to listen more intently to the commercial breaks during talk shows than any other types of programs. And it doesn't hurt that women are responsible for an estimated 85% of all purchases. Women listeners seem willing to give talk shows another chance. While only 43% of women listen to the format today, 74% said they would listen to female-oriented talk radio, according to a nationwide online survey of 1,013 women aged 25-54 who are regular or occasional listeners. The poll was conducted by media research firm PhiPower Communications Inc. I, personally, look forward to tuning in.