Women’s professional cycling has struggled to attract the same level of media coverage the men’s. Then in 2015, Ella came into being – a female specific website that offered coverage of women’s professional racing as well as articles designed to catch the attention of the recreational cyclist. I spoke with Wade Wallace, founder of Cycling Tips and Ella about why he decided to start Ella, the difficulties the site has faced and the future.
It would be safe to say that most people have heard of Tour de France. Some would have heard of Cadel Evans. But if you went up to someone in the street and asked them to name a women’s cycling race or an Australian woman currently racing in the professional cycling scene, the majority wouldn’t be able to.
Traditionally, women’s sport hasn’t gotten coverage in the media because it wasn’t perceived as being of interest to the public. This is slowly changing with the success of the AFLW and soccer’s Matildas. Even women’s cricket is getting a run on TV these days. But other sports like women’s cycling? They’re still in the shadows, only making it onto the evening news when someone wins a world championship, a gold medal at the Olympics or breaks a world record.
One of the major issues for women’s cycling is that it’s a niche inside a niche. However, what cycling does have is a loyal, enthusiastic and passionate following. It was this following that allowed Wade Wallace’s blog, Cycling Tips, to go from being a hobby that he started in 2008 to one of the best known cycling websites in Australia.
In 2015, it was announced that Cycling Tips would be acquiring a sister site in the form of Ella. Ella’s focus is all facets of women’s cycling. It covers racing as well offering content with a more female focus. It was a huge gamble but it had the potential to change the way women’s cycling was promoted and reported on.
Unsurprisingly, the journey hasn’t been straight-forward for Wade and the team at Ella. “I thought we could change the world by doing Ella. I thought it would. I thought we could, you know, we would lead the way and more people would get involved with this.” Wade said. He freely admitted that mistakes were made and that setting up a female-focused cycling website was much harder than he anticipated. It was hard to attract sponsors and advertisers for the site – an endless source of frustration for Wade. “With Ella, we did give the media coverage and they still wouldn’t get on board. We had the numbers to make it work. They still wouldn’t get on board”.
Nonetheless, they persisted and Ella produced many well-researched and engaging articles. Unfortunately great content doesn’t always mean great engagement and Wade indicated that numbers remain low. Since launching in 2015 the internet has seen huge changes in how people access content. There is now live streaming of races online, including the women’s. Fans are creating their own content and sharing it via social media.
Unfortunately, the website wasn’t recouping its costs so Wade made the very hard decision to make the position of Ella Editor redundant. This was announced in his weekly email on April 6. This directly affects Anne-Marije Rook, the editor in question and will mean a slowing of content on the site. In better news, Wade is already thinking about what direction to next take Ella, possibly a podcast.
The final word should be given to Ms Rook, the former editor of Ella who wrote in a Facebook post “Rather than seeing it as a disappointment, however, I’m trying to see Ella as a spark. A spark for more visibility, publicity and discourse about women’s cycling across sports media and the cycling industry.”