We spoke with Roslyn McLarty, Co-Founder of The GIST, a female-founded and led sports media brand, about the importance of levelling the playing field in sports through accessible, inclusive, and equal media coverage.
What inspired you to start The GIST?
In 2018, the three of us had all been working in different areas of financial services in Toronto and observed how sports is a powerful connector and social currency in society, but how they can also feel exclusionary to those who don’t fit the traditional mould of the “avid sports fan.” We felt disenfranchised with the traditionally male-dominated sports media outlets and frustrated from being left out of sports conversations and the overall lack of community for female sports fans.
We knew there was a massive opportunity for a different, more accessible, inclusive and female-centric approach to sports news. One that brought female voices to the forefront, that could speak to all types of sports fans and provide equal coverage on men’s and women’s sports.
After getting some validation from friends and colleagues that this pain point was widely felt and that our proposed solution was appealing, we decided to start building the media platform that we wished had existed for us.
Why is the work you’re doing important to society?
The GIST’s mission is to level the playing field in sports. To us, there are three major pillars in the way we do this. First, we put men’s and women’s sports on a level playing field by providing equal sports coverage. Second, we bring long-absent female voices and perspectives to the forefront in an industry where male voices have dominated. And third, we make sports more inclusive, accessible, and fun for underserved audiences and casual fans that have felt excluded from or disenfranchised with sports.
The work we’re doing is important because we’re demonstrating that it’s possible to be successful in a new model where sports fans — men and women, alike — consume sports news that has a women-centric voice and perspective, that has equal coverage on men’s and women’s sports and that appeals to a broad base of fans (from very casual to avid.)
This hypothesis has been largely untested perhaps in part due to the unconscious (or conscious) bias engrained in legacy sports media. But we truly believe that for the entire sports industry to grow, it needs to include, and meaningfully engage with, underserved sports fans. And part of that equation includes hiring people and covering athletes that are representative of a wider audience.
We hope that any contributions The GIST makes in levelling the playing field not only directly impacts our community, the athletes we write about, and women in the sports industry at large, but that The GIST also inspires women and those in underrepresented groups to take up space in the places they’ve traditionally been excluded from. And we also hope our work and success inspires more companies to pursue opportunities in this space and more funding to flow into this space.
What advice would you give to women looking to enter the sports industry?
Understand how the industry is changing and the opportunities that change opens up for you. Think strategically about where you can insert yourself, and use your unique perspective, experiences and talent to bring something new and different to the industry. Consumers of sports and sports news are very different from ten years ago. They’re wanting to consume sports in different formats and platforms, know different things about the athletes they’re watching, engage with sports and those they’re watching with in different ways, both digitally and in real life. These changes open up new ways for you to bring value.
One of the things that has worked well for The GIST has been building from the ground up, staying close to our audience, listening to their feedback and what they want and adjusting accordingly.
Don’t be afraid to do things differently, and have confidence in the lens and value that you bring to the table. For the sports industry to continue growing, it needs to engage with new and underserved audiences.
The GIST has accomplished so much since launching in 2018. What goals are you still aiming to achieve?
We’re also looking for new ways to advance our mission of levelling the playing field in sports and to bring more value to our community. The last few years we’ve been focused on our content offerings around giving our audience “the gist” of what’s up in sports news. Our time and resources have gone towards honing those offerings, growing our audience, and monetizing our channels so we can reinvest into our business and mission.
2022 is an exciting year for us because we’re ready to take the unique brand and voice we’ve developed, the business infrastructure we’ve built, and our playbook for growth and monetization and leverage them to expand into new content verticals and channels. We’re starting with launching a sports business newsletter on February 28, and we have plans to launch additional verticals later this year and next. We’re also expanding into athlete-led content with a new podcast we’ll be launching with an exciting partner. We hope these expansions are just scratching the surface of the different ways we can grow The GIST, innovate on new offerings for our audience and scale our impact as a whole.
Tell us about the new sports business content vertical that The GIST will be launching at the end of the month
We’re so excited to announce the launch of our sports business newsletter, with a particular focus on women’s sports. We’ll focus on the news and people impacting the women’s sports world, and we’ll also cover major happenings in men’s sports and how they impact female athletes too.
Less than 4 percent of sports coverage is on female athletes, and sports business coverage has similarly failed to adequately cover the business side of women’s sports. We’re really excited to change that.
We think it’s a really exciting time for women’s sports, with a trend of increased investment and interest in female athletes, their teams and their leagues. Women’s sports TV viewership reached all-time highs in 2021. Female athletes earned first-of-their-kind sponsorships. We just saw the WNBA raise $75 million to invest in the marketing of the league and its athletes. The GIST’s sports business newsletter will keep readers up-to-date on these trends, deals and their impact on the sports industry at large. We’d love for you to sign up for our new sports business newsletter here and if you’re not already, our regular sports newsletter here.
About The GIST
Whether it’s a newsletter, podcast or social media post, the women-operated sports media startup The GIST is all about providing a fresh, inclusive and fun voice and perspective on sports. The GIST curates and contextualizes sports content in an authentic, relatable, and conversational voice through a 4x-weekly sports newsletter, a 3x-weekly sports business newsletter, a twice-weekly podcast, social media, a website, community events, and fantasy
Since launching in 2019, The GIST has grown its community to over 700,000 GISTers and has worked with companies including NBA, FanDuel and Athleta. It has been accelerated by Techstars, Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs, MLSE, and Facebook and its co-founders were named to the Forbes 30 under 30 Media list. The GIST is based in Toronto, Canada and has a team of 12 full-time and 20 part-time employees across North America and Europe.